Alan O'Dowd, better known as the singer Boy George,
was ordered to complete 5 days of community service in August of 2006. The
punishment was to be trash pickup. The media went wild, and Boy George
petitioned to spend the time helping teenagers make a public service
announcement, hold a fashion or makeup workshop, serve as a DJ at an
HIV/AIDS benefit, or do telephone outreach. The judge did not acquiesce
and added, "It's up to you whether you make it an exercise in humiliation
or in humility." Boy George, along with numerous photographers, hit the
streets of New York. The images weren't pretty, as there were harsh words
and scowls. An iconic trophy of the 80's was picking up trash.
When perusing the video images taken the day that
our class was armed with bags and gloves picking up trash, I find no
harsh words and no scowls. On the contrary, you find cooperation,
laughter, smiles and volunteers! Yes, there were those who came
voluntarily, and when I asked one volunteer why he had come, he
answered simply that he thought it was a good idea. They say a picture
is worth a thousand words, but there must be an explanation for all the
good humor that is found in the images. Was it the scenery? Was it the
fresh air? I don't think so. I sensed more positive interaction that day
than other days we have collectively spent in the Everglades. I believe
that we are becoming more aware of the park's importance and fragility, and
therefore we were all motivated to actively make a difference. I say this
also because studies show that knowledge of wetland issues is a strong
influence in conservation behavior (Syme et al).
This supports the quote in our Everglades Handbook:
In the End, we conserve only what we love.
We love only what we understand.
We understand only what we are taught.
The video shows me that we are learning, and beginning
to understand and love the Everglades. The images show me that picking up
trash was not an exercise in humiliation or humility, but an exercise in
pride. To us that day, the trash we disposed of was our trophy.
Syme, G. J., Beven, C. E., & Sumner, N. R. (1993). Motivation for reported
involvement in local wetland preservation: The roles of knowledge,
disposition, problem assessment, and arousal. Environment and Behavior,
25(5), 586-606. Retrieved January 30, 2007, from PsycINFO database.