Archive for July, 2008

From the Keep America Beautiful Affiliates Conference in ATL

Tennessee lead the nation with over 1,000,000 volunteers in the Great American Clean Up this year. Isn’t it great to be a Volunteer from Tennessee?

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Illegal Dumping Targeted in New Mexico

Here’s a story from the Associated Press about cracking down on illegal dumping in New Mexico. Of course this problem is nationwide.

I’ll be at a Keeping America Beautiful affliates conference in Atlanta the rest of the week. I’ll blog as much as possible.

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Trashing National Treasures

Here’s an excerpt from an excellent article about the Great Wall of China in the August 2008 Smithsonian:

As Sun Zhenyuan and I [Brook Larmer] duck through the arched doorway of his family watchtower, his pride turns to dismay. Fresh graffiti scars the stone walls. Beer bottles and food wrappers cover the floor. This kind of defilement occurs increasingly, as day-trippers drive from Beijing to picnic on the wall. In this case, Sun believes he knows who the culprits are. At the trail head, we had passed two obviously inebriated men, expensively attired, staggering down from the wall with companions who appeared to be wives or girlfriends toward a parked Audi sedan. “Maybe they have a lot of money,” Sun says, “but they have no culture.”

The article ends:

As Sun cleans the trash from his family’s watchtower, he spies a glint of metal on the ground. It’s a set of car keys: the black leather ring is imprinted with the word “Audi.” Under normal circumstances, Sun would hurry down the mountain to deliver the keys to their owners. This time, however, he’ll wait for the culprits to hike back up, looking for the keys—and then deliver a stern lecture about showing proper respect for China’s greatest cultural monument. Flashing a mischievous smile, he slides the keys into the pocket of his Mao jacket. It’s one small victory over the barbarians at the gate.

While I read the physical magazine, you can read the entire article online at Since I have done very little world travel, I always thought that littering was an American thing. While the Chinese have banned plastic bags, like us, they have a long way to go.

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The most pristine place on earth I have found is at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks:

The Earth Is Not a Trash Can at Kasha-Katuwe. I can’t express how lovely and clean this place is. There are no plastic bottles along the trails, nor plastic bags hanging from its majestic rocks. Thanks to the Pueblo de Cochiti, the University of New Mexico and Sandoval County, NM, for maintaining its beauty.

When we entered this sacred place and paid our $5 fee, the native American who met us gave us many rules to follow. At first, I was offended that he thought that we would leave plastic bottles along the trail. After the spiritual journey we spent there in the rocks, I was glad that he was adamant about respecting the land and the animals in the area.

Tonight as I walked around my neighborhood, I picked up 5 plastic bottles that had been left along the sidewalks, roads and playgrounds. While my neighborhood is not a geological wonder as Kasha-Katuwe, it is beautiful with its undeveloped rolling hills surrounding it and lush greenery.

I wish everyone was as stern about the environment as the greeter at the Tent Rocks National Monument.

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Fighting Terrorism Since 1492

We revisited the site of the storm drain trash yesterday in Albuquerque. The garbage had been removed. I was glad to know that Albuquerque is quick to clean up trash sites. All in all, the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas were very clean. We visited the Tent Rocks National Monument on Friday and didn’t see a single piece of litter on both trails we climbed.

Along Interstate 25 heading south from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, we noticed plastic bags hanging on fences along the various Indian Reservation lands. In Tennessee, the plastic bags hang from trees.

It’s time for all Americans to realize that we live in a beautifully diverse landscape. We need to keep it clean.

When I visit west of the Mississippi, I realize that we took over the land from the native Americans, who were already living here. As a child, I was taught that the Indians were savages. The Indians were uncivilized. If someone with different cultural habits moved into my house uninvited, I would ask them to leave, too, and would use physical force if necessary.

I always leave the West with regret that we destroyed the native American lifestyle. I feel that they were one with the earth and understood better that humans are part of earth. We saw a tee-shirt in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe gift shops. There was a photo of four Indians with guns with the caption, Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.

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Reuseable Trash on the Trail

This was an unusual sight today on the Dale Ball Trail in the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve*:

At least, it wasn’t a plastic cup. The coffee in the bottom appeared to be just dry. I hope the person who left it comes back for it.

*Thanks to the Nature Conservancy for saving this land from housing development.

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The Downside of Travel

One thing I don’t like about traveling is that I use more plastic products that I would at home. I drink bottled water as we hike a lot. I always take the empty plastic bottles to a recycling area or put them into a trash can if no other arrangements can be made. I don’t use my Sigg water bottle because I can’t carry enough water in it for a day hike.
I also use the hotel plastic bags for dirty laundry. Of course, once I’m home, I use the bags for trash and dispose of them properly.
We still keep the place we are visiting as pristine as we found it or better. Using bad products as plastic bottled water is no excuse for littering.

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Storm Drain Trash

Yesterday in Albuquerque, we had an afternoon thunderstorm. Afterward on our way to dinner, we found this street-wide storm drain with lots of debris. This is one reason why we should not litter. Much of the trash enters the storm drain and makes it way (in this case) to the Rio Grande River which empties into the ocean eventually. Besides polluting our rivers and lakes, we add to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Mostly Albuquerque is a very clean city, but the washing of its litter into one location illustrates how much a problem small amounts of litter can become.

Today, we walked the LaLuz Trail in the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico. The trail was very clean of litter. We saw one plastic bottle that was probably dropped by accident. Everyone removes their trash and leaves only footprints. It was a glorious experience.

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At the Albuquerque Zoological Park

Most of the areas between the public viewing and the animal exhibits were filled with plastic bottles or soft drink cups. This is inexcuseable as the park offered plastic recycling containers everywhere. If not, the trash cans were located throughout the park.

It’s a very nice zoo. It’s a shame that humans can’t dispose of their waste properly. Zoos need to spend their resources on the animals and their keepers. Keepers stay extremely busy and shouldn’t have to clean human junk out of the exhibits.

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Tagging in Albuquerque

I sat on a nice park bench in Albuquerque, NM, and noticed this tagging. Sad.

The city and the area encourage recycling and going green, but the dreaded plastic bags hang from its few trees and fences.

While visiting the Petroglyph National Monument, recycling containers are readily available. Unfortunately, someone has tagged some of the petroglyphs, which are hundreds of years old. Sad.

We saw road runners, jack rabbits and lizards in the national park, but no rattlesnakes.

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