I. Welcome to “historic” Raymond, New Hampshire

DSCN2261

Now that the snow has melted and the spring breeze whispers tauntingly through my open windows, I am lured outside into the natural world.

Raymond, New Hampshire is a town with many unique and beautiful features. Its downtown is as quaint and colonial as any New England town: there is a common, two white churches, and a little red library with an excellent local history section. Once we branch out in any direction from the heart of town, the roads immediately narrow, the old colonials loom over us, none of which face the road. A few winds later and we are likely meeting someone’s alpaca, or perhaps we can admire some hilly, fallow fields, situated…just so perfectly…behind a two-hundred-year old farmhouse.

Raymond boasts two lazy, winding rivers: the Lamprey and the Pawtuckaway. There are lakes and wooded estates, many privately owned. In the next town over, Pawtuckaway State Park beckons us, offering a lake and a mountain to explore. All of this is exactly halfway between two of New Hampshire’s major city centers: Portsmouth and Manchester.

In fact, cutting through the middle of Raymond is the Rockingham Recreation Trail, a wooded dirt path which spans from Portsmouth to Manchester. The trail passes through numerous preserved areas, follows some rivers, edges some lakes…it is a thrill to hike, especially as it is right outside my back door. It is not rare to meet a jogger, dogwalker, family, or young couple on a romantic walk whilst on the Rec Trail.

If you haven’t guessed, I am what they call an “avid outdoor enthusiast.” Much like Thoreau, studying the ants as they wage miniscule war on a tree stump. Sounds like a fun afternoon. I think nothing of dreaming the day away while I watch some mallards homestead an overflooded part of the Lamprey, as they bob their heads in and out of the mud in search of sustenance.

I don’t think that is the case with most people who live in Raymond. Beer cans are everywere…EVERYWHERE.

II. There’s no use crying over spilt Steel Reserve

DSCN2254

It’s not just beer cans. Litter lines the streets; litter clogs up the Rec Trail; litter, litter everwhere. I’ve seen car parts as well (big surprise next to all the beer cans). Containers of every shape and material. Stationary supplies, books, clothing, bicycles, electronics. Things no one would expect: a laundry basket in the woods, flower pots not far off. I’m fond of the TV in the swamp, myself. Pedestrians and drivers alike, Raymond residents love littering.

DSCN2273

I recall a chat I had with a proprietor of a local farm in Gilford, NH. We shared our disgust and disdain for the amount of litter on the back roads — in Gilford! the beautiful, tourist-attraction Lakes Region!

The problem even reaches overseas! Popular essayist David Sedaris told NPR host Terry Gross in an interview: “English people throw everything out their car window, and the roadsides are carpeted with rubbish.” I should mention Sedaris lives on a “one-lane winding road,” probably as quiet as Raymond’s littered back roads. It’s just so easy to litter, right?

The underlying truth is what economists call the tragedy of the commons. Common resources (such as “public land”) are depleted (or in this case, polluted) by individuals with no interest in the common good. Recently, I explained this to someone I know, and used the example of Raymond’s beer can-laden public roads, and his reply was, “I bet some of those are mine.” Any anarcho-environmentalist can shoot this ammunition all day long, but is the target even aware they are being shot at?

I love the Rec Trail and my walks down the back roads. I’ve made a few friends:

54 noble llama

It irks me, when I am out and about, that I must play “99 Bottles of Beer on the Ground.” What’s a poor anarcho-enviro to do? Complain to city council? Have the already over-present police “crack down” on littering? Well, they haven’t “cracked down” on “drinking & driving,” that’s for sure, as my camera can attest.

As I slowly accumulate enough smashed up car parts to build my own automobile, and enough tossed pens and notebooks to write this article, I know the solution lies not with the threat that resides inside the barrel of a gun, but in something stronger: we can call it anarcho-environmentalism.

Sedaris, again: “So that’s what I do with my life now. I pick up rubbish on the side of the road. I do it on my bike. I do it on foot.” Until everything is privatized, this might be the only solution.

Unfortunately, Sedaris isn’t shy to state the obvious: “[I]f you try to clean two miles of road, you’re going to come back the next day, and it’s going to be dirty again, right. So…I’m gone now on this tour. I’m gone for two-and-a-half months. All hell is going to break loose.”

Hell, indeed, in a world of non-ownership.

III. Nixing bad habits, and nixing the nips

If you’ve ever been to Dover, New Hampshire, you’ve likely seen an old man, hunched over, a smile sunburnt onto his face, strolling down the street with handfuls of garbage. His name is Albert Michaud, and he is in his mid-80s.

“I like to keep places clean and it is the right thing to do,” he said in a local paper. How admirable! And isn’t is a great way to stay healthy and happy in the golden years? He is a pioneer in the anarcho-enviro movement. I respect him, because I know that pioneers live hard lives to pave the roads for the next generation. However, his strategies can be improved upon. The newspaper can run a puff piece and everyone will read it and go “Aww…” Those same people still mindlessly toss their crap out the window, or drop it wherever they may be.

Littering is simply a bad habit. Habits can be changed. In his book The Power of Habit, journalist Charles Duhigg explains the habit loop: there is a cue to set off the habit, a routine (the thing one does to satisfy the craving), and the reward, which is what your brain expects in return for performing the routine.

The habit loop for littering is as follows:

CUE: I have to carry this junk in my hands (or in my car). Grr.

ROUTINE: I can just toss it! Whoop!

REWARD: Now I don’t have this junk anymore. I don’t have to carry something. Relief. Onward, littering soldier…

To change a habit, you need to change the routine in a way that still mimics the reward. So an anxious (cue) nail biter might chew gum (the new routine) in order to satisfy the craving for some kind of stress-relieving activity (the reward).

Let’s step onto some private property for a moment. I’m hungry, so how about the grocery store’s parking lot. Wow, there’s a real nice thing going on here: no trash! And what’s that over there? Is that a trash can? They’re willing to let me clean out my car here, and they pay to get rid of all my trash? Why is that? Well, they don’t have to pay people to clean their messy parking lots, which saves the consumer money. They also have a nice clean parking lot, because most people, out of habit, will throw trash into a trash can.

The cue and reward remain the same, but the routine switches from mindless tossing garbage into the wind to consolidating the trash into a container.

I decided to mimic this on the “public land.” Remember that laundry basket I found in the woods?

DSCN2267

Everytime I walk by, I add some picked-up trash. Once, I found the basket empty. Success! I have found other buckets and baskets on the trail and will be strategically placing those as well. I don’t mind occasionally filling up a shopping bag with the trash and dropping it in the dumpster if others will cooperate.

This is a voluntary, peaceful solution that could spread. I’m excited to try this DIY-anarcho-enviro experiment.

I have to admit that I can’t stop people from throwing trash out their car windows in a world that disallows private property. I do have an idea, though. Build a beer can mountain and place a sign. TOSS HERE. I’m open to ideas…

IV. conclusion, frustration, optimism

DSCN2270

Today I took a stroll to take some pictures of beer cans along the road (fun hobby, right?). As I approached the break in the Rec Trail that intersects Main St. in Raymond, I saw what must be one of those elusive “town drunks,” as he was clearly already taking baby steps and cracking open a tall can of cheap beer. It was one pm and he wasn’t being shy, not even twenty yards from the street. Good for him! I don’t contest drinking in public. (In fact, I want to start a 12×1 club, where 12 people meet up in a public place and rip open a 12 pack and have an intellectual conversation, each drinking one beer. Nonviolent protest, right?) I just hope the guy with the tall can doesn’t drop it on the ground. I’d be pretty bummed out about that. We’ll get there, Raymond. I’m on it.