Before attending the cleanup, our class read a paper by Adam Davis entitled "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Civic Service," which cautioned against performing civic service or engaging in service learning without undertaking sufficient reflection on motivation. It discussed the dangers of jumping into actions with the potential for continuing effects on a social environment without contemplating how one's motive will shape those effects. The lack of intention behind action, the lack of reflection on plans before they are implemented, is what led to a large amount of the trash the FOLAR group encountered ending up in the river in the first place; in the past, I had approached civic service (and particularly environmentally oriented campaigns like FOLAR's) thinking that the best thing I could do -- and indeed, the best thing to be done -- was to increase efforts to clean up trash, increase participation in civic service. I realize after participating in the FOLAR cleanup that an equally if not more important way to approach these large-scale environmental and civic problems is to promote large-scale awareness and reflection.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Cleaning the Forgotten River
On April 22nd, I attended a FOLAR cleanup along with my HNRS 1200 class; there was a huge group of people, and a huge amount of trash. Although the L.A. river is an integral part of the city in terms of its significance to the management of floodwater and irrigation, the various species of birds, fish, and other animals that it sustains (or has the capacity to sustain, were it not so polluted), and its significance to the history and continuously evolving culture of the city, it is often forgotten or thought of as a completely man-made entity, to be treated with the same regard as any other sewer pipe running underneath the city. Walking across the sandy banks of the river, I noticed that most of the debris in the river was not large pieces of trash, or even things like syringes or knives or other such objects that a person might want to get rid of discreetly; there was a large range of types, age, and size of trash; the only real constant was the amount of discarded material that was uniformly integrated with the natural space.