Read all of our latest updates

Trash Talk in the Los Angeles Times

When you live in a large urban environment, as I do, you come to tolerate some inconveniences — and worse — because of the countless cultural, entertainment, and gastronomic attractions and professional opportunities that only a metropolis can offer. One of the unique attributes of Los Angeles is the proximity to nature, from sun-splashed beaches to the unspoiled wilderness of the mountains. Did I say unspoiled? A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported on a very popular area in the San Gabriel mountains, which roughly form the northern border of metro Los Angeles. The area was carved out of Angeles National Forest and re-designated the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument by President Obama. It’s a lovely, bucolic place, with a stream and swimming hole . . . if you can see past the piles of trash and graffiti.

In the article, “Trash heaps and wild parties: Blight invades a beloved L.A. escape,” Louis Sahagún describes “the bottom of a canyon that looks like some High Sierra gorge — only covered with trash.” Rocky banks are marred by graffiti, and “roadsides [are] heaped with all manner of garbage: Rotting food, barbecue grills, bottles, ice chests, soiled diapers, and float toys.” And, yes, a lot of plastic.

This article spoke to me for a couple of reasons.

First, I live nearby in a similar environment. In fact, my street dead ends into a hiking trail in what is largely Angeles National Forest land. We don’t experience the amount of litter that Sahagún describes in his article, mostly because the community up here is committed to keeping the roads and hiking trails clean. It is not uncommon to see people pick up trash as they walk their dogs or go for a stroll.

The second reason the article resonated with me isn’t so much about geographic proximity as it is about attitude.

Sahagún saw a visitor unload a “carload of excited children” next to the mounds of trash (I’m not exaggerating — check out the photos in the article). She “shrugged her shoulders at the reeking piles of trash. ‘Not much you can do about it,’ she said.”

Much of the article focuses on a lack of resources to deal with this problem. Creation of the monument by Obama came “with no new government money, leaving agencies, nonprofits, and municipalities to seek funding from public and private donations and from adjusting the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the monument,” writes Sahagún. That is certainly not helping the situation, but buried deep in the article is another observation that, to my mind, should be amplified.

“I wish I could flip a switch and make everyone behave,” Angeles National Forest Supervisor Roman Torres told Sahagún. “Visitors could help,” added Torres, “by not throwing trash down on the ground.”

Is that too big of an ask? Really?

Anti-plastics advocates point to the amount of plastic waste bespoiling the environment as one reason to go plastic free. We often counterpunch by publishing articles that point out the benefits of plastic based on scientific, environmental, and economic data. Wherever you may land on that debate, though, I think we can all agree that a good place to start is by telling people not to throw their trash on the ground. Then we can all steal back into our corners and argue anew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verification *

Call Now Button