Saturday, May 19, 2012


This isn't kayaking related. This just angers me. Why are smokers allowed to litter?
I never understood why it is unacceptable to litter, unless your a smoker. Then you can drop a cigarette butt wherever you want. For a very long time my wife worked as a researcher in smoking cessation, she is still a public health researcher. So the facts I am going to give are from a - somewhat no longer connected to the industry - professional, who happens to be sitting next to me.

Approximately 20% of the population smokes. I should say, they STILL smoke, which dumbfounds me, that people still smoke. It is a bit higher where I live in the American south. I know someone that literally grew up in a town called Tobaccoville. I live 25 minutes from the town of Winston-Salem. I am not kidding.

When I am in a parking lot, Why do I see this?

I grew up in a home with both parents as smokers. If you grow up with parents as smokers you are twice as likely to smoke compared to children of non smokers. I don't - and have never - smoked. That doesn't mean I am better, it means I am a freak, an oddity. 

A dear friend of mine decided he would quit smoking around a fifteen years ago. He did it by himself and without help of any kind. I find this amazing, as I know that it is harder to quit smoking than to quit heroin.  Smoking is more addictive than heroin. I'm not kidding. 

So back to my original question, why is it okay for smokers to throw a butt on the ground? When I rode my bike to work - hey! it's bike to work month! - I would see McDonalds garbage on the side of the road - that is another post, people still eat McDonalds! Seriously? With such good food in the world? I have this fantasy where McDonalds comes out and says 'Hey, we realized we are killing our customers. We are going to make food that is fast, healthy, yummy, and locally sourced!' A man can dream can't he? I digress - Where was I? Right, garbage on the side of the road, and I also wondered why people would just throw garbage out of their car. Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or is it that they just don't care? 

One day riding to work I saw someone throw a bag of McDonalds out of their car window, and I wanted to pick it up and throw it back in their car. I figured they would run me over at the next traffic light, so I did nothing. 

I regularly see people at traffic lights disposing of ashes from their cigarette or entire cigarettes out their window. I still don't know why this is acceptable? 

A lot of people take very little responsibility for the world around them. I'm no angel, I drive a car that uses gas. I use paper towels.  I try and take responsibility for myself but I am far from perfect. I don't understand how people can't understand the impact their actions have on the environment, or that they don't care for the environment enough for it to matter to them. 

I think part of it is a disconnect from the world around us. I work with many twenty year old mountain bikers, and I am regularly amazed by how conscious - and conscientious - of the environment they are. They don't ride their bikes if the trails are wet, because it creates erosion. They know that even on mountain bike trails they yield to hikers. Hikers who shouldn't be on mountain bike trails! They do it because it's the right thing to do.  

I still don't have an answer to my original question, and this has become a bit of a rant, and I apologize for that. I am not trying to blame anyone, but I do think that our culture is disconnected from the world around us. I think we are out of tune with the very planet we live on. I also think that is dangerous. I think there are many things we can do to get back in touch with our surroundings. A kayak, or a bike are a great start. You see the world differently on a bike than you do in a car. You are more connected to it. 

Thanks for putting up with a non-kayaking rant. Shortly I will be unveiling my summer plans, which does not involve a big paddling trip. This summer I have a special kayaking skills project I am going to work on, which I will unveil shortly. I have hinted to it on my Facebook page. if you haven't already you should head over to and give it a like. We just completed a really wonderful 21 day meditation challenge, people seemed to really enjoy it. The book is still in proof reading, and probably won't hit my self imposed June deadline, but it won't be much beyond that. At the End of the summer I will reveal the next big paddling expedition. I am in the early planning stages and I need to make sure it is feasible before going public. Finally, if you live near an REI they are having a sale with kayaks marked down 15%. See you on the water!


  1. Eric and I saw a guy biking last week with a soda fountain cup and we watched him chuck it into the grass. Needless to say, I doubt he was biking for the environment.

  2. As a person who had half a pack of cigarettes whilst visiting Chicago in January (I know!) and half a pack when I visited Chicago in July (and no others in between) I'll point out that I work very hard to put out my cigarettes and THEN have nowhere to put them. I usually keep the butt in my hand until I find a trash can, but, if I were unhealthy AND lazy they'd be on the ground.
    Also, I don't know if you know this but there aren't many cars with ashtrays anymore. In fact, I've had 3 new cars in the past 9 years (as if the smoking wasn't bad enough) and none of them had ashtrays.
    They may be discouraging people from smoking but automakers are encouraging littering too.

  3. First, I don't think the lack of ashtrays in cars is discouraging people from smoking. But, here is the problem. Change the cigarette butt to any other kind of garbage and it doesn't work. So there is no ashtray in your car? there is also no garbage can. Does that make it okay to throw garbage out the window?