These students want to see us take better care of these islands, which visitors tell us are the most beautiful in all the world.
Think about how you would feel if you had just finished cleaning up your house, made it spic and span, washed the curtains, scrubbed the floors, changed the bedding, your kitchen is sparkling clean, and someone rides by on a bike and tosses a greasy plastic plate onto your floor?
Or throws a full and soggy nappy onto your kitchen table, and a few beer bottles hit the walls?
What if you carved a beautiful ukulele of your own design or painted a masterpiece, which took you years to create, and someone carelessly spilled beer all over it destroying its beauty?
The Cook Islands are God’s masterpiece. My brother Tommy, who was a recent visitor, has been to many islands in the world, especially the Caribbean where he lives in Puerto Rico. He told me Aitutaki is the most beautiful, pristine island he has ever seen.
Every time I drive on our roads or walk the beach, I have feel sad, mad, disappointed and discouraged to see man-made rubbish tossed thoughtlessly on our beaches and roads every week, and each time I go out with my grabby thing and fill a large recyclable bag within minutes.
This week, when meeting with prefects at Araura College for our Virtues session, I remembered that they all serve on the Enviro Squad, so I asked them to brainstorm ideas on how to solve this long-standing problem. They plan to meet with the Aitutaki Island Council soon to talk about environmental protection issues – how to keep our lands and waters clean and safe from pollution.
First, what is the cause? Carelessness – the opposite of Caring; laziness – the opposite of Responsibility. The real question is do we love these islands enough to care for them and be responsible with personal rubbish?
Here are some solutions these young ones came up with:
1. Each village to have a clean-up day once a month.
2. Police fining anyone caught littering $20 each time.
3. Put litterers in jail.
4. Put more bins around.
5. Each neighbourhood have a team of children to help clean up the rubbish.
6. Post signs, such as, ‘This village is a clean zone’.
7. For those who can’t read, a sign with a hand over a bin. ‘Find a bin. Toss it in’.
8. Pay the people who already collect the rubbish and recyclables each week a bit extra to take turns walking the roadside for 15 minutes at a time, to gather man-made rubbish from the sides of the road.
I don’t know if any of these ideas are ‘do-able’ or not, but I know that if more of us practice our virtues of Caring, Respect, and Self-discipline, these shores, waters and roads could set a new standard in the world for beauty and cleanliness.
Do we love it enough?