Images and text by C. Paxton
Throughout this September, The Union Parish Library in Farmerville is hosting a powerful litter awareness art exhibition to focus attention on the long-lasting troubles that trash brings to wildlife and people in Louisiana. How often have you seen a beautiful scene marred by trash? Are you sick of it too? There are things we can do. Come along to the exhibition at Farmerville’s Union Parish Library to see some fantastic artwork, sad facts about the littering problem and some great tips to help us clean up this lovely state.
Yesterday we were fortunate enough to attend the opening party. This is definitely the liveliest and most engaging library that I have encountered! Chief Librarian Stephanie Antley Herrmann is a keen kayaker and leads Kayak club excursions on the local waterways and has done her fair share of litter picking while exploring beautiful Lake D’Arbonne, Bayous D’Arbonne, Deloutre and Corney and their adjacent sloughs. Known for her imaginative and artistic public exhibitions within her library space, she is also a member of the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast.
Jailen Carrodine, D’Arbonne Woods Charter School graduate and Delta Community College Art Education student is congratulated for overseeing this community environmental education project that has incorporated the work of local school children from Homeschool Union, Union Parish High School and D’Arbonne Woods Charter School in a unique appeal to members of the community to become trash-conscious and to act upon the desire for tidier living spaces around our homes and in the wild places we visit.
Titled Save Our Swamp (SOS for short) the art project is comprised of 12 exhibits positioned throughout the library space that are as informative as they are artistic. The largest is a selection of pictures of trash in locally well known places, taken by some resident photographers Richard Lowery, locally famous for his excellent bird photography, myself and my wife Kimmie Paxton.
Beneath these images of drink cans, plastic bottles, cigarette packets, plastic utensils and candy packets are seminal works of literature on Climate change, and on chemical pollution like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The most shocking image up there, IMHO, is Lowery’s picture of a dead Kingfisher dangling from snagged fishing line. Waste indeed!
The other exhibits focus each upon one particular kind of trash that comprise the overall problem, features a poster with an artistic representation of an animal that suffers adverse effects of the trash and an image provided by US Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries of an animal suffering from interaction with trash. The exhibition teaches that littering is a major problem in parts of Louisiana that costs the public $14 million a year directly just to clean up the highways, and carries with it indirect costs to health and happiness and opportunity costs that are hard to quantify but none-the-less damaging — the suppressing of mood, loss of pride and of real estate value, the encouragement of further littering and more violent forms of vandalism, the decline of visitors and economic development.
The accompanying pamphlet to the exhibition encapsulates the problems in a few short paragraphs and then focuses on the remedial action that we can take.
Much littering is accidental / thoughtless
The chief problem is identified as loose material flying out of or off vehicles, trucks cars and boats. The best remedy is to secure or remove all loose material. Bed covers on trucks can contain the material and save gas mileage! Win-win! Watch out for loose stuff flying out of your vehicle when multiple windows are wound down.
While it might take a second and no thought to hurl an empty can into the crotch of a Bald cypress tree, it would take care and some preparation and time to go out there and pick it up. You can report incidences of littering by calling 1-800-LTRBUG or 1-885487284. A $175 fine and court costs might dissuade people from repeat offenses.
The exhibition teaches us the top ten things we can do to reduce litter:
Can it! Use a trash can with a lid
Tap it! Drink tap water in reuseable bottles.
Stow it! Secure your trash in boats and trucks.
Remove it! Clean up trash when you can.
Butt in! Support litter education.
Butt out! Don’t toss cigarette butts.
Refuse it! Skip straws and avoid styrofoam (polystyrene).
Reuse it! Use re-useable shopping bags.
Recycle it! Recycle aluminium and plastic.
Reinvent it! Support recycled products.