Recently, I visited an attractive and relatively unspoiled part of the UK. I won't tell you where because it might encourage more people to go there, and you'll see why this is a bad idea in a minute.
Not for the first time I was struck by something that seems to be occurring throughout the UK, and I expect the rest of the world: the country is gradually sinking under a tide of discarded plastic bottles, mostly water bottles. Every time I went out I came back carrying several empty bottles, and this after having thrown several other bottles away in bins during the course of the day. And I was not picking up more than a tiny fraction of the bottles I saw.
I don't understand what is going on here. Or, perhaps I do understand what is going on, but I'd rather not think about what it implies.
So, bottled water: why? This is the UK, not the third world, and we have very good mains water, and have had for a long time. Why, exactly, do people feel compelled to buy bottled water at a vast premium over mains water? Perhaps it's because our bodies are, after all, temples, and it won't do to pollute them with traces of chlorine and the other tiny contaminants that get into mains water. Of course, no one is worrying about whatever awfulness leaches into the water from the plastic bottle.
(Of course, it's very common to need water when there is no mains water handy. The solution to this is a water bottle, which you fill, and refill, with mains water, and which you take home with you. That's not what I'm talking about here.)
Well, if our bodies are temples and we have to drink special expensive water to avoid corrupting our precious bodily fluids, then we certainly don't think the environment is worth much. That special magic water has been shipped, probably in lorries, from wherever its source was. A lot of it comes hundreds or thousands of miles, frequently from France. Better not think too hard about what that's doing to global warming.
And what about the bottles? Lots of lovely plastic, which, apart from the toxins leaching out of it into the water (oops, better not mention those), is yet more stuff that is costing energy to produce, and that we might be able to recycle, except we probably can't because it's got paper labels and caps made of some other incompatible plastic, and recycling it isn't worth the energy costs anyway.
If, that is, we had a chance of recycling them. Which we don't, because the people who drink this vile stuff just throw the bottles away wherever they happen to be at the moment, leaving them to accumulate in vast wind-blown drifts, rendering a beautiful landscape ugly, getting slowly ground down by wind and waves until they're in small enough bits that they get into the food supply and start killing the wildlife whose habitats they haven't already strangled.
It's this that bothers me most. The arguments about why bottled water is a bad idea are a little bit too subtle to be easily understood, and we're continually being battered by advertising from the bottled water companies who want us to believe that it's not a bad idea, and that, in fact, it somehow will make us all lithe and sexy. So it's hardly surprising that people believe the lies and drink the stuff.
But there can be no possible excuse for just dropping the empty bottles. There's no advertising saying this is a reasonable thing to do. No political party is suggesting it's OK. The truth is that the people who do this just don't give a shit about anyone but themselves. They're the sort of people who park their 4x4s in the disabled spaces at supermarkets, the people I catch letting their dogs crap in the alley beside my house. In fact, they're not even smart enough to realise that their behaviour is destroying the place they've paid good money to come and visit (because you can bet that none of them are locals).
When I am made king of the world (and I expect the appointment any day now), I will set these people to cleaning up the filth they leave. When they die, I will have their heads impaled on stakes with signs warning others not to do as they did, and I will place these stakes in every town and village in the world (you can be sure there are enough of them). Their bodies will be ground down and used as food for wildlife. This I regard as far too lenient a punishment.