This question may move us beyond the context of the litter that lines our streets, roads and pathways.
When we look at things from the larger environmental context, do we lessen ourselves when we toss trash out or fail to recycle everything we can, neglect to tune up our clunker of a car lest it belch out harmful soot and gases, or turn a blind eye to any number of other harmful/wasteful practices?
Maybe so. It has only been the last 150 years or so that man – hardly the historical blink of an eye considering our short earthly timeline – began to create chemicals that led to certain products and byproducts that are
tied hand and glove to the pollution we have now. Oceans afloat with plastic, trees dying from a blanket of particulates, ground water under assault from careless dumping-disposal (and yes, most likely fracking), and our basic health threatened by any number of carcinogens we are powerless not to make contact with.
It seems I answer my own question.
Don’t let me, however, cast the first stone since I am hardly without sin. In fact, put me at the head of the line. I’m far from a zero-waste person. My car needs a tune up. I drive to the Harris Teeter grocery store or SouthPark Mall or other nearby places when a brisk walk would do. My windows aren’t energy efficient. I sometimes drink bottled water.
My footprint may be somewhat less than others, but it is a footprint nonetheless. I’m not mankind’s spokesperson to answer why we manufacture and consume – and toss aside – what we do.
I think perhaps the better time to ask this question is 100 or 200 years from now. Only then will our descendants know the damage we’ve inflicted upon them. My guess is that their answer will be vastly different from what I put forward. The guessing here is they won’t like their conclusions any better than I do mine.