Fines Pay Off

By Francisco Castro

Havana’s Miramar Fifth Avenue, photo: Indrani Soemardjam
Havana’s Miramar Fifth Avenue, photo: Indrani Soemardjam

A while back, I became conscious of one of the ugliest and dirtiest aspects of our society, specifically in Havana, where the great majority of its residents actively pollute the environment.

I’m ashamed to admit it that it took observing a foreigner to make me reflect about the need to be concerned about my environment. He did it in a very simple way: by his example.

It’s difficult to directly influence people, who-in your very face-commit acts as irresponsible as tossing their peanut wrapper down onto the sidewalk. Although the number of waste bins installed on corners is exponentially greater than it was two years ago, there still aren’t enough.

Nothing has been achieved if downtown Vedado is full of waste bins, and the Marti community in the lower-income Cerro district continues to lack them, just as nothing will come of this if the public isn’t sensitized.

I’m not talking about putting public service messages on the TV and radio (that, by the way, are almost nonexistent in relation to this issue); I believe that we should take stronger actions against people who act so irresponsibly.

Undoubtedly, if what was to occur was like what began a few years ago in the upscale Miramar neighborhood, we wouldn’t even have to think about such carelessness.

A while ago, some official ordered the ticketing of anyone who walked on the grass bordering a high-profile walkway along 5th Avenue. As it turns out, one day I was the selected-from among the multitude of people who crossed the street-to pay ten pesos for having trodden on the lawn. While the inspector jotted down my information, I counted 35 people doing the same thing I had done, but without getting caught.

A week later there were no inspectors in the area, but I’ve never walked on any stretch of grass again.