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The Wisdom of Youth: Unique Anti‑Littering Initiative Launched

Posted by stephanie rogers on February 11, 2014 in News

In many rural places in North America, roadside littering is becoming a real problem.  A new initiative, however, hopes to draw on the wisdom of youth to find solutions. Involving the young people of the East River Valley and students at Dalhousie's Agricultural Campus, this unique education, research and volunteer action project aims to help change adult littering behaviour as well as provide a potential model for future anti-littering efforts.

Changing Littering's Unkind Behaviour in the East River Valley (C.L.U.B.  E.R.V.) is the project’s name.  Led by Dr. Deborah Stiles, a humanities and rural studies professor at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture, and funded by a grant from Fulbright Canada, the anti-littering initiative will involve brainstorming sessions conducted February to April with youth of the East River Valley. These gatherings will be organized to get young people’s ideas on how to address the littering issue and devise potential solutions.   

Ideas generated at the brainstorming sessions will be shared with students from the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus taking Professor Stiles’ Special Topics in Rural Studies course during May Term (May 1-31, 2014).  Students taking the course (SPEC 4009) will have the opportunity to design and conduct research, as well as gain experience in service learning through the anti-littering initiative. As part of their May term course work, they will design and conduct a research project connected in some way to rural littering, and work with youth and volunteer organizations in the East River Valley. 

They will be picking up litter, but also analyzing the litter picked up as part of the research, in order to determine what’s being discarded, where, how much, along with gathering other data.  The work to combat roadside littering will also build upon what has been suggested by the youth of the East River Valley during the brainstorming sessions, and could include anything from developing unique signage, designing a social media campaign, to planning other innovative strategies to address the problem of adult roadside littering.

Kenneth Tunnell, in an article in Southern Rural Sociology (2008:31-32), notes that "600 miles of Kentucky's roads showed...950 cans and bottles had been discarded per road mile" and that the "cruel irony is that a roadside cleaned up today will require cleaning up again tomorrow." Despite the fact that there are robust deposit and recycling programs in Nova Scotia, active participation in the Adopt-a-Highway program of the Women’s Institutes, and numerous clean up campaigns, littering continues, as in other rural jurisdictions, to cause "social, economic and environmental harm" (32). The ‘C.L.U.B.  E.R.V.’ project hopes in some small way to make a difference, and to engage youth, from grade Primary through university age, in identifying possible strategies and solutions to change littering behavior to not-littering behaviour.