Don’t they see it?

I enjoy getting out into the countryside around Wadi Musa/Petra and having a bbq, a pot of Bedouin tea and being able to explore. Whether it be the interesting colours and formations of the rock, or the chance sighting of a Sinai Rosefinch, or even the discovery of some wildflowers I never know what I might see.

The last time that Atef, Alia and I had a bbq lunch I have to say that not only didn’t I enjoy it, but I ended up getting really angry. At the place that Atef had chosen for our bbq I was unable to see all the things that it should have offered, not because they weren’t there, but because it was marred by others. The opportunity to explore and discover was completely ruined through the selfish, short sighted nature of people. Instead of marveling at the beauty of the rock colours and looking forward to being able to explore a crevice whilst Atef was preparing the bbq, I sat there instead and silently fumed and stewed.

There was rubbish everywhere. This is nothing new in Jordan. People just toss their rubbish without regard for the environment or others. Most of the time I can look past the rubbish and focus on what nature has to offer. At the end of our time I try and do my bit and pick up the rubbish that’s around and I always make sure that I take our rubbish home with us. This time I was defeated. There was just so much rubbish that I could have easily filled 10 large wheat sacks and then still not have picked it all up.

IMG_1553 IMG_1554 IMG_1555 IMG_1557 IMG_1558 IMG_1559

These photos only show a small area of the rubbish. I was so deflated that I didn’t even take any photos of the beautiful rocks.

I just don’t understand. Don’t they see it? How can anyone not see it? Are they lazy or self-centered or totally ignorant? It is such a blight on what is a beautiful environment. We are so lucky to live where we do and are surrounded by natural beauty. What then gives anyone the right to ruin this beauty?

The behaviour of Jordanians in regards to rubbish and just tossing it where ever they feel is incredibly frustrating, but I’m unsure of  what I can do to change it. I try and lead by example. When Mum came last year and we moved into our new home, she and I spent a number of hours over several days walking around the valley where our house is picking up bag after bag of rubbish. Just last week I spent a 4-5 hours over the course of a day doing the same thing again. Every time I walk along the road in front of our house I pick up the rubbish that people have tossed on the ground and walk it to the bin that is only 20 metres away. It’s definitely noticed by the others that live around us, but they don’t completely understand why I’m doing it. I’m always asked why I’m picking up the rubbish, but it doesn’t seem to stop them tossing rubbish on the ground. But I keep going and hope that by doing my bit that slowly others might change and anyway I want to live in an area that is clean and not see rubbish when I look out the windows.

Last Friday upon seeing the huge quantity of rubbish that was strewn around I very much had that feeling of I’m but one person and what can I do. I really lost hope. I didn’t know where to start and was thinking even if I did come back with 10 bags and picked up the rubbish, what’s the point because the next group that bbq there would just leave their rubbish behind.

Does anyone have any ideas of what I can do as just one person against such a huge problem? I’m not the sort of person that can just ignore this.

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16 responses to “Don’t they see it?

  1. I don’t know why some countries have a blindness to rubbish. I notice acutely these days the difference between them. It’s certainly not directly linked to poverty. I went to Burma at Xmas, which is a very poor country and yet it is largely free of rubbish. Surely it has to start with local government investing in the right bins, cleaning services etc and at the same time with education programmes in schools. I’m not sure that you could tackle this alone but it might be worth looking for NGOs involved in tackling the issue. I’m sad to read this, as I’m planning to go back to Jordan early 2014, taking a small group of friends.

  2. That is terrible. It is a real shame that they cannot see the impact of their behaviour on the environment, besides the fact that leaving litter makes the place look ugly- I wonder what impact this is having on the flora and fauna in the area.

    I fly from Aus to Jordan tomorrow. Will be interesting to see how their attitudes differ from Aus!

    • It certainly must have an impact on the flora and fauna apart from the obvious effect of being an eyesore. You will certainly notice huge cultural differences between Australian and Jordan. Are you coming for a holiday or moving here? Either way I hope you enjoy your time.

  3. I’m getting ready to publish a similar article. I have complained, cajoled, begged the locals not to litter their beautiful country for more than four years. As much as is practicable, I refuse the ubiquitous plastic bags from the shop by taking my own bags. I’m viewed with everything from disdain to outright laughter when I do it, but I feel I must do my part. Last weekend I hiked in Wadi Numira and was appalled by all the rubbish. Like you, I made pictures and came home and started writing my post. There are a few here who are working to rid Jordan of litter, and I corresponded with them for a time, but as far as I can tell they’ve lost interest or just become too discouraged to continue the fight. My friend, who is a tour guide, and I constantly talk to others about it but it seems to fall on deaf ears. I don’t like to be the foreigner who comes and pontificates to locals about what they should do, but we all share this planet and we all should take responsibility for it.

    As an aside, I have visited many homes here in Amman and to a one they are all neat as a pin. I’ve asked the question a thousand times, “how can you be so neat and clean in the house and care so little about your outdoor surroundings?”

    • It certainly is a common theme for blog posts from expats living in Jordan and I’m sure that we won’t be the last to write about it. I also don’t understand how they can have such double standards when it comes to liking things clean. I tend to think that the way they clean their houses borders on obsessive and yet they have no problems with throwing rubbish from out of their car parked right in front of their house. It makes no sense. I also refuse the plastic bags whenever I can. It’s just so wasteful they way they package every single thing in a plastic bag. This attitude is certainly not limited to just Jordan but seems to be across the Arabic countries that I’ve travelled in. A comment that my tour leader made in Libya, which would have been funny if it’s wasn’t so sad and true, was and here you see the national flower of Libya “blackia plastica bagia”

  4. I heard that there was a same problem in some parts of the States in the past (probably many parts, but cannot remember the name of the state). People (mostly men) just threw rubbish out from the window of the car etc. They launched a campaign which message was “the real men do not litter” “only jerks throw rubbish on the streets” and similar – and it really had an effect on people.

    Of course it all starts from the schools. If children are taught not to littler, they will easily tell them parents off (well, I am not sure if in Jordan) when they do it. I guess, as always, people just need to see and understand what it does to nature, in order to change their behavior.

    • I think that the learning structure here prevents children teaching their parents or telling them off. Learning here is from top down – you learn from your elder/parents and they are always right. It would be a huge sign of disrespect for children to tell their parents that they are doing something wrong.
      I wonder though if a campaign like the one you mentioned where the men are targeted might work here? But then I wonder if anyone would have the courage to put in place a campaign that questions a man’s status and reputation. Interesting one to think about.

  5. Pingback: The Trashing of Jordan | The Left Wright Brain·

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