Opening Our Eyes to Litter

I’ve made an interesting discovery while accompanying school groups on litter cleanup events. The youth involved literally do not even see the litter, walking past abandoned homeless camps and trash without a second glance. I attribute this to a couple of factors: first, their visual field (and that of many adults) has shrunk to a tiny rectangle, about the size of a cell phone screen. Many of us have atrophied peripheral vision and do not see things that are not directly in front of us. Second, many students walk past trash every day as they go to school and back home. The sight of litter has become normalized and so they no longer notice it. If they were accustomed to walking down clean sidewalks and trails, then a wadded up paper or soggy sock would jump out at them, and perhaps they would be more likely to take action.

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