With all the recent hype here at ‘We Are Explorers’ about Waterfall Way and the beauty of Dorrigo National Park, I thought now would be a good time to set pen to paper and have a yarn about something that has been bothering me for a long time. It’s time: Explorers, we need to have a talk.
The whole North Coast region is special. The Gumbaynggirr people, the traditional owners of this region, call it the God’s own country and it’s rich in history and dreaming. We have access to beaches, remnant Gondwanaland rainforests and World Heritage protected sites. We live near the Promised Land.
We have highways that glitter… wait… What!!?
Over the years, with the expansion of the Pacific Highway and the rising trend of ‘Tree Changers’ and ‘Adventurers’ coming here from the cities, there seems to have been an explosion of bottles, cans, chip packets and other litter casually tossed by the side of the road. I’ve seen expensive 4WDs loaded up with camping gear, off to some ‘pristine’ wilderness, throw plastic bags full of rubbish out the window.
Our special places, like the Promised Land, are full of faeces as there are no toilets so people defecate metres from where they are sitting, too lazy to even attempt to bury their waste. (When we were kids, swimming at Gleniffer, Poo time meant Home time.)
The entire Waterfall Way is a sparkling tribute to the laziness and selfishness of visitors and locals.
Roadsides are unique places. As much as roads destroy habitat, they also create new ones. A quick google search finds countless articles on roadsides as habitats. They provide homes and movement corridors for bird, grass and insect species and can be restored to provide valuable conservation areas.
Kate Jackson states in her paper ‘Assessing Roadsides: A guide for rating conservation value’ “the total length of Australian roads would circle the equator more than 40 times.”
That’s a lot of habitat.
The myth of the ‘Pristine Australian Wilderness’ has been so rooted in our being that we no longer see the connectivity of all places. We travel from our dirty cities along dirty roads to ‘clean’ rainforests, rivers or reserves. We take our coke bottles and our chips and we enjoy them in these places. We don’t litter there, but we drive away and drop all our rubbish out the window once we are ‘out’ of that special place. We don’t see that the Maccas we ate and threw out the window on the way up the mountain to Dorrigo National Park gets washed into the drain and flows down into the Bellinger River National Park, which in turn feeds into the Bellinger River (where countless rare Bellinger Snapping Turtles are dying) and then flows on to the sea.
We need to take a stand against the current apathy around littering. We need to educate ourselves and our friends about the impact of our actions. We need to be considerate and thoughtful about where we camp, where we walk and where we drive. Be critical thinkers. Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. Take out more rubbish than you brought in.
We all want to feel like we have discovered something special (hence the rise in travel photographers and ‘Adventurers’ on Instagram). We all have that need to feel unique, to be validated, to feel #Authentic. But we all need to be responsible. There may no longer be bins in National Parks in NSW, but there are bins in the towns. There is a bin at every single petrol station you go to. As a last resort, there will always be a bin in your home.
There is no excuse good enough for you to litter. Ever.