Saturday, December 9, 2017

Adopt-A-Highway: utile or futile? And a tax bill proposal...

Yet another experiment, and eye opener! Not about diet this time (I'm still successfully holding on on that one, day 16 in the books!), but about road maintenance and the environment.
While my running club, Quicksilver RC of San Jose, has adopted the New Almaden trail in the Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and we do trail maintenance there under Paul Fick's leadership, Agnès invited me to join a group from her new employer, the Harker School, to maintain and clean-up the road side of our local and busy 280 interstate highway.
I was in Dallas all week for work and flew back Friday afternoon, looking forward to actually resuming running after a 2-week hiatus with an ultra at the traditional (33rd!) Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing, either the 50K or 50-mile. But the logistic wasn't easy (early drive to SF and limited parking at the top or bottom of Twin Peaks) and the goal was quite aggressive as I haven't been running at all yet under my new diet, so I decided to join Agnès and her colleagues for this volunteering activity instead.

It has actually been quite a few years that I wanted to experiment what it takes to clean-up a highway as part of this Caltrans program. We all see the signs on the road and, occasionally, a group of workers on the side of the road but I have to admit that my first thought was that the sponsor was mostly paying Caltrans and Caltrans workers were doing the job of cleaning. As a matter of fact, I even thought that they may actually enroll inmates to do community service this way!

Well, that was certainly not the case this morning, it was a group of dedicated teachers who don't have much time already on weekends but to put unpaid extra hours to grade their students' papers and prep classes. When you hear people whining "I don't have time..."

I must add that picking trash along a highway is quite humbling and, while it looks so important and utile from an environment standpoint, it feels quite futile given the number of miles of highway in the country and the lack of consideration of the drivers throwing stuff from their car. (In case you wonder, utile was borrowed from French a few centuries ago and was the original English word for useful, a few centuries ago. I had to pick it for the utile/futile word-play in the title...)

Anyway, we cleaned the busy 280/Meridian/Southwest Expressway interchange and our team of 3 filled 12 large bags of trash in just 3 hours. But we certainly left the area greener that it was when we started!

Beyond the classic plastic bottles, beer cans and fast food plastic cups and straws, the winner of the shame competition goes to Snickers! I'll spare you from a picture of the raw trash but here is one in the recycling category: and, yes, a pretty sharp knife, and an iPad cover.
As for that remain of the last ugly election, no, it didn't make to the recycling bin, sorry Donald, straight in the bag of trash!

Some volunteers reported that, occasionally albeit very rarely, they do find bills, as high as $100! Well, not much luck for me this morning, only a penny this time! But the satisfaction of giving back to our local community and Mother Nature, priceless!
Special kudos to our crew lead and local coordinator, Loui, who leads such clean-up sessions in the area, every month!

Now, as I still can not swallow what's happening in DC this month, here is a proposal for a tax bill, and not a $1.5 trillion cut, but something more useful and pragmatic for our country and to save our planet! What about...

  1. Setting a tax for everybody, either by headcount, or, even better, on everything which has a packaging;
  2. If you don't like paying it or can't afford, then you would have the option to get a refund or exemption through community service to collect the trash along our highways;
  3. This way, either by paying, or serving, everybody would be more aware of the trash around us, and its collection;
  4. Of course, this tax would hit harder those who are already environment-conscious and keeping our roads clean, but since they are also likely those volunteering anyway, they would get credit for their time.
I know, with what's going on in Congress with the right wing-led tragedy for our future in every department, all this is really futile, isn't it? At least I wasn't just dreaming this morning, I was also doing my small part of resistance and action. For what it is worth, as we say, one piece of trash at a time...

If you are interested in giving a hand to this program too, you can visit the Caltrans Adopt-A-Higway program website, and the Bay Area is in district 4. Or contact me on Facebook and I'll get you hooked. Thank you in advance, and for not littering, always!

1 comment:

Peter said...

Love this Jean!

The basis for what you are talking about politically to help the health of our planet and environment is the same as the basis for the flawed nutrition guidance....keep up the great work and let's now start the next phase of OFM for you.