How clean is your city?

by Julie Finch-Scally

It is a while since I had the opportunity to see a foreign city.   The previous time I went to Europe and wrote a blog about the dust in the Louvre Museum.  Then I could not believe the dust I saw on the edges of marble stairs that led to where the Mona Lisa was hanging.

This time my journey took me to Singapore: a completely different city to Paris, and definitely more modern.  Much building has taken place since my last visit there but that was mainly in the city centre, not on the far outskirts of town.

The reason behind this discussion about Singapore is because I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the city.  Shopping Malls and parks, Museums and walk ways were all clean.  Even in the outer suburbs amongst old buildings, everywhere was clean.

By clean I mean no rubbish anywhere.  Along an arcade which was being used to display products and clothing from shops I was walking past, the footpath and gutters were void of any scraps or paper.  Yes the buildings looked old and tired, and possibly could have used a coat of paint but the streets were clean. Even rubbish bins weren’t overflowing. 

I am aware that Singapore many years ago introduced draconian methods to make people keep their city clean.  Children brought up in this atmosphere adopt the state of play and happily continue to abide by these rules. 

I think back to my own street here in Canberra and the number of times I see an empty pizza box or hamburger bag sitting in the gutter or on the side of the road.  I despair of citizens who don’t care enough about where they live to keep the area in respectable condition. I also wonder what their homes are like.  If they think it is OK to drop their rubbish in the street, do they drop their unwanted food and objects on the floor in their own property hoping someone else will get rid of it?

Training children not to drop rubbish has larger impacts than just keeping a city clean.  It teaches a child that you always pickup after yourself.  It also gives them pride in their surroundings.  Watching many of the tourists meander through shopping centres looking unkempt and slovenly, made the Singaporeans stand out.  They always looked smart and tidy.  They had pride in themselves and their city.

I wonder if all parents should adopt, as part of their child rearing, the procedure of teaching their offspring to be more aware of others and how their behaviour has an impact on people around them. Allowing children to drop things and leaving it for someone else to pick up and throw away sends the wrong message.  Especially when we all have to share this planet. 

Maybe Singapore’s methods of fining or imprisoning serial litter offenders have its benefits.  If it makes people pickup after themselves and helps keep all cities looking clean then it has to be an option worth considering.   


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