Since January, we’ve tried to advance a sustained public discussion about litter in Louisiana, offering a few comments here periodically in hopes of moving the ball on a problem that’s plagued the state for generations.
Are there bigger challenges facing the state? Maybe. But if there’s a common obstacle to progress in Louisiana, whether it’s education or economic development, it’s that we don’t ask enough of each other. To raise those expectations, we should start with simple self-respect. That means demanding streets, roads and neighborhoods as clean as any in America. There’s no reason it can’t be done.
Our previous editorials have described the dilemma, which is obvious to anyone who’s driven around our communities. Here’s how we broached the subject earlier this year:
“Put simply, this place so many of us claim to love and cherish is choked with litter. If a line of dump trucks rolled into Louisiana tomorrow and emptied loads of trash onto our streets and highways, we’d consider such profane disrespect an act of war. But oddly, each and every day, we do more or less the same thing to ourselves, fouling a land we like to laud as a Sportsman’s Paradise with broken beer bottles, dirty napkins, plastic bags, beverage cans, and any other nasty garbage that, in a normal world, would rest only at the landfill.”
We hope that image is a call to action. But today, we’d like to focus on what’s already being done. This month, in conjunction with Keep Louisiana Beautiful, Lt. Gov. Bill Nungesser spearheaded Leaders Against Litter, a statewide campaign in which more than 2,000 civic, business and political leaders across Louisiana participated in clean-up events in their communities.
There’s a history of the lieutenant governor’s office getting involved in anti-litter efforts. Nungesser’s predecessor, Jay Dardenne, embraced the issue, too -- standing on the state’s roadsides, bag in hand, to collect what the careless had pitched from their passing cars.
Maybe there’s a feeling that anti-litter campaigns are a natural mission for lieutenant governors, who have few constitutional duties. Perhaps the underlying assumption is that litter is a second-tier issue, not really central to the civic health of Louisiana.
We hope not. But if such a feeling forms our thinking, we need to change our attitude. Nothing much is going to change without the broader body politic getting involved.
That’s why the involvement of other people of stature in Leaders Against Litter is encouraging. It can be the basis for a deeper commitment to real policy changes, which should include tougher anti-littering laws and heightened enforcement of the laws already on the books.
We teach children not to make messes, and to pick up after themselves. It’s high time that grown-ups in Louisiana did the same thing.