Anti-litter superhero!

Over two months ago, I wrote about my encounter with a litterbug. This morning, I met another, and again, I decided not to let it go.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe my life is too boring and I need to shake it up a little, get some adrenaline rush by telling total strangers off. If people can call me ‘aunty’, I have the right to be naggy.

I was on the train, reading a back issue of the Edge when out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman on the seat across drop a sweet wrapper.

I gave her the stare. Eyed her, looked down at the litter, back at her. She noticed but made no effort to pick it up. So I returned to my reading. Should I let it go? Or give her a good scolding and risk a punch in my face?

I decided to go for the ‘shame’ route. Again.

As the train neared my stop, I went over to her and said, “Can you pick that up? I’ll throw it for you. There’s a dustbin outside.”

My action took her by surprise. She picked it up, hand hovering over her open bag, unsure whether to stash it away… I took the wrapper. Two actually. Kopiko sweets. Got off the train, threw them into the bin.

I think this is my purpose in life. Telling off litterbugs.

Apathy and vandalism

Keeping our environment clean is our responsibility. Not just our homes and immediate surroundings, but public spaces too.

The KTM Komuter train was new, one of 39 6-coach trains brought in to replace the old 3-coach ones – filthy, crowded and always in the workshop.

The new ones are bright, clean and there are even coaches reserved just for women (before you get a hissy fit – this is not discrimination – we women appreciate this service because sexual harassment and safety issues are real concerns). Unfortunately, vandalism has reared it’s ugly head, with several windows broken by stone-throwers.

If the train continues to be abused, soon, we will be back to uncomfortable rides. That’s why I want to play my part in keeping it nice and clean. Once the vandalism starts, it will grow and grow and we’d soon be riding in filth again. Have you heard of the ‘broken windows’ theory by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling?

Their 1982 study suggested that in a neighborhood where buildings have broken windows, people are more likely to misbehave. Because they figure no one would care. Keeping facilities and spaces in good order may stop further vandalism and even prevent the escalation into more serious crime. Don’t believe it? Ask yourself this. Are you more likely to spit and litter at spick and span KLIA or the old Puduraya bus terminal?

An orderly and clean environment implies that the area is under surveillance and that criminal behavior will not be tolerated. Neglect like broken windows, graffiti and rubbish signals that the area is not monitored and that one can get away with criminal behavior.

This theory is supported by Dutch scientists who found that cyclists who parked their bikes near a wall covered in graffiti were twice as likely to litter than people who parked near the same wall after it was painted clean.

Recognising this social behaviour have given rise to vacant property managers such as Camelot. The property slump in Europe has resulted vacant buildings at risk of squatters and vandals. These property managers promote ‘live-in guardianship’ by placing temporary tenants at low rents in buildings that would otherwise remain unoccupied. It’s a win-win situation for owners who cannot find market-rate renters and tenants who can’t afford market-rate rents.

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