Martin Hannan: It’s time to clean up our own mess

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Ask any councillor what subject most gets their constituents’ collective goat and they will often reply “dog poo”. No wonder, as it is pollution of the most basic sort, the kind that gets up your nose and on your shoes, and even your clothes if you suffer a fall in the park or on the pavement.

It took years of campaigns and changes in the law to make dog fouling socially unacceptable, but these days people who let their dogs loose to be loose, so to speak, are soon made pariahs.

Across the UK, tens of thousands of complaints about dog fouling are made to local authorities every year, and while campaigns to get dog owners to “scoop the poop” have been effective, dog fouling is still widespread. Furthermore, it is still the one subject that can make normally sane and calm people turn apoplectic with rage – even more than noise, inconsiderate car parking or neighbours growing their hedges to the height of the proverbial beanstalk.

It goes without saying that dog owners are responsible for their dogs’ productions. A dog can’t help doing what comes naturally. So why can’t people clean up their own mess?

And why, when we don’t accept dog fouling, do we still allow the supposedly superior species of homo sapiens to litter the planet with unnecessary refuse?

We moan about canine pollution, yet happily accept human spoilage of our gardens, streets, parks and 
wilderness.

OK, so we usually put our bodies’ effluent into toilets and sewers, but we still make a humungous mess with litter, discarded packaging, empty glass and plastic bottles and sometimes much bigger items that people just can’t be bothered to dispose of thoughtfully.

It is all totally unnecessary because these days so much can be recycled, which is why I applaud the city council’s moves to change its refuse collection system to try and make us all into permanent recyclers. There are many who simply want us to ignore the need to recycle which, fundamentally, is about trying to combat climate change.

I can’t abide the extremists who say absolutely everything must be recycled, but I thoroughly detest those who won’t recycle, supposedly on a point of principle.

One of their arguments is that there’s no point in us in the UK recycling everything when China, India, the US and other nations simply go on burning coal in their power stations or driving gas-guzzling cars. What tosh.

These are people who don’t believe there is such a thing as climate change and that conclusion allows them to feel they can carry on without recycling. But the rest of us tend to look at climate change with a variation of Blaise Pascal’s Wager.

That great 17th-century French philosopher used to say – and I 
paraphrase – that there might be no God but it would be better for you to bet that there is and live your life accordingly. After all, you’ll be a better person for it anyway.

So whether you believe in climate change or not, it would be better to live as if it really exists, because you’ll not lose anything by doing so except the right to pollute Scotland like so much dog poo.

Recycling works, but people need help to adjust to a recycling lifestyle. And that’s why the council must devise a system that is simple, straightforward and inexpensive for citizens and collectors alike. And soon, please.

My tribute to Bob

FOR the second time in a month I have to note the passing of someone I would not call a bosom friend, but that I knew and greatly liked.

I learned of the death of Bob McLean too late to pay tribute to him in last week’s column, and I could not attend his funeral for various reasons, so I want to pen a few words in his memory.

A son of Midlothian, Big Bob – as he was always known – was a former colleague when we worked together on the marketing and public relations for hugely successful City Art 
Centre exhibitions, such as the Emperor’s Warriors, Gold of the Pharaohs and Thunderbirds Are Go! The latter was his favourite, I suspect. He was never less than diligent and always had a ready quip that enlivened potentially dull meetings.

I have to admit I never got used to him being Dr Robert McLean, but indeed he was such, as the result 
of an acclaimed thesis on Michael 
Collins that gained him his PhD. He was intelligent and articulate, and had real passion for the causes in which he believed.

We had some great political discussions over the years, and I hugely admired his campaign within the Labour Party for a real commitment to a Scottish Parliament.

Obviously, as an SNP member, we disagreed on independence as opposed to the halfway house of the present status quo, but this I will say – if Bob were still alive, I would listen to his no doubt carefully made arguments on the issue any time compared with the bland negativity that currently emanates from the unionist camp.

The debate over the next two years will be less lively and less sensible for his absence, and Scotland is the poorer for Bob’s passing.