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Truro News - 2021-07-22

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If you carry it in, carry it out

FRONT PAGE

HARRY SULLIVAN harry.sullivan @saltwire.com

GREENFIELD, N.S. - Sunlight filters down amid forest shadows onto the gleaming white froth of a rushing waterfall - nature in all its glory. Scant metres away, muddied, sun-dried towels hang from a tree. On the ground, a couple of steps away, a pair of ankle socks lay where they were dropped. So too, for a pair of mud-caked black pants - simply discarded - just a bunch of trash, selfishly left behind for someone else to deal with. “Nothing beats picking up somebody else’s underwear in the woods,” Jeremy Smith says, with a hint of sarcasm, as he gingerly uses a garbage bag to scoop up the dirty drawers mixed in among a bunch of beer cans and other items. “Like, what’s on this … what happened here?” he asks disgustedly of the discarded underwear. Alongside the pile of trash on the ground is a large, plastic garbage container, nearly full of more cans, other beverage containers, and who knows what all. Smith of Salmon River has been hiking into numerous waterfalls throughout the area in recent years, both to enjoy the natural beauty and to shoot material for his Youtube channel. One thing he has noticed since the COVID lockdowns began, however, is the increasing amount of garbage that waterfall visitors have been leaving behind. Smith had been posting directions to some of the waterfalls on his Youtube channel and the garbage issue recently hit home after some landowners began contacting him to let him know the impact his videos were having on their properties, “So, I felt it was kind of my duty to help give back and clean up,” he says, during an outing to the upper Greenfield falls to check out the garbage situation there. “It’s been one of those things like kind of nagging at me over the last couple of years and sort of building up, almost some guilt over it because I enjoy the places so much. I am benefitting from all this beauty…,” he says, both personally and through the growth of his Youtube channel. During a recent vacation, Smith spent several days hiking into various waterfalls specifically to bag up as much garbage as he could. The effort has been both daunting and unpleasant given some of the materials – such as the discarded underwear and things such as a soggy, mouldly mattress he hauled away from one site. “Oh, this one has Linda embroidered on it,” he says, of one of the dirty towels left behind. “I mean, maybe somebody honestly forgot their towels. But they’re hanging in a tree. Like, who knows how long that all of this stuff has been sitting here. You know, I brought this bag thinking we might get a few things.” In no time flat, however, the large garbage bag is full. It would have taken several more to clean up the remaining items in the blue plastic barrel. “Now you see why somebody has to clean this up?” he says to his daughter Blakely, 8, who has been accompanying him on some outings. “Because nobody cares do they? What do you think would happen if everybody was like this? What would the whole woods look like?” The questions are part of the lesson he has been teaching Blakely and her threeyear-old brother Spencer since his clean-up mission began. Blakely was with Smith when he made his first trip to the municipal balefill facility in Kemptown to drop off his initial collection of about five full bags and a plastic tote carrying the sodden mattress. The tote had also been left behind, along with a discarded air mattress. “When we dropped all the garbage off at the dump, she asked me: ‘Why do you care, dad? Why are you doing this it’s not really in our backyard, it’s not affecting you?’ “I said is that really what you are getting at, that it’s not personal for me? And she said ‘yeah’. I said it’s one of those things that everybody is going to think of it in the same way – that it’s not my problem, the next guy will get it, somebody else will come along and get it, the property owner or something like that.” But, eventually, all that stuff builds up, he told his daughter, because nobody is coming along to collect it. With her eagle eyes and gloved hands, Blakely eagerly scoops up as many items as she can find, repeatedly diving into the underbrush to pull out the numerous pieces of paper and other litter along the trail leading into the falls and even alongside the ditch where Smith parked his car - the lessons her dad has been trying to impart obviously taking hold. “Because I know that it’s really good for nature (to remove it) and it won’t be good for nature if we leave it there,” she says. “The biggest response that I took from him is probably that it will kind of go into the ground and destroy plants and it wouldn’t be very good for the environment.” Smith knows his efforts are limited and he has been posting his clean-up efforts on his Youtube channel and his Facebook site – Jeremy of New Scotland – in the hope the lessons he is teaching his daughter can be expanded to his online audience and they will also post pictures of themselves collecting litter. “Some people don’t see much beyond their own selves,” he says. “Not only do I want to be a big part of just doing it, I’d like to help start something. Not to say that my clout would start a movement but any little piece of the puzzle helps…. “People need to understand that their actions have consequences and it affects all of us and it’s not just as simple as ‘your’ inconvenience.” What is entirely simple, however, is the message he wants to share to anyone heading into a waterfall or other wilderness settings – if you can carry it in, you can carry it out – such as the blue towel spotted laying on the rocks across the river just below the falls. “It’s almost like a flag taunting me,” he says, as he looks for a way to retrieve the towel. With the roar of the rushing water in the background, Smith bends to remove his shoes and socks to wade across the river. “You can’t unsee it,” he says. “I think it’s one of those things we can see it, but, do we see it? “Yeah, we know people litter and it’s in your peripheral vision. But it’s not in my peripheral vision anymore, it’s right in the centre I guess.”

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