Hey Mr. Green,
Am I wrong to be annoyed when I'm in my car ready to exit and see a guy flip his cigarette from his car, and when he gets out I nicely tell him how bad that is, in view of the fires in Arizona, and he tells me off. I took his license number, although I doubt that there is a place to turn him in. If not there should be. I am sick at the events that have impacted the lives of people and animals.
—Hotly Contesting in Tucson
You have every reason to be irked by this rude and clueless pyro, and if you wish to ratchet your annoyance up to righteous indignation, I certainly won’t object. After decades of “Keep America Beautiful” and anti-littering and fire-prevention pitches you’d think there would not be nary a remaining miscreant who dared flip, toss, throw, or dump any refuse in a public space. But there are always, as the great sociologist C. Wright Mills put it in a different context, minds unaccountably dense
Actually, you can turn the guy in. Pursuant to its Criminal Littering or Polluting laws, the State of Arizona maintains hotlines that allow you to report the location of a litter episode and the license number of the car. Hotline numbers are (602) 712-4683 and (877) 354-8837. The state’s definition of criminal littering is to deposit “any litter, destructive or injurious material” on private or public property.”
So, sock it to him, I say, even though you’ll be ratting him out to a voice recording instead of a real, live litter cop. Presumably some sentient authority will listen to your message and decide whether to take action.
Since littering is hardly confined to Arizona, folks in other states can find out how to report trashy behavior by calling state or local police and asking who to contact. (Your tax dollars at work.) Regarding cigarettes, while fires raging in Arizona have captured national attention, any place can be vulnerable. Lest we forget: the most destructive forest fire in U.S. history was not in the arid Southwest, but in Wisconsin and the Upper Michigan Peninsula, where the Great Peshtigo fire of 1871 that killed about 1,500 people while burning through about 1.2 million acres of forest.
I hasten to add that not all forest fires are bad. They have always occurred naturally. We now know that fires are essential to the health of some forests, and forest scientists have learned to use controlled burns to improve ecological conditions. But the operative word is “controlled,” which does not include raging conflagrations caused by reckless butt flippers and unquenched campfires.