The point about litter, and the point of this article is that litter shows up so many of our small comfortable prejudices about ourselves. I am going to look at litter in Jamaica. But not as a foreigner coming to judge. That is almost too easy, after all there is lots of litter in Jamaica. And from the narrow view of your own perspective it is always easy to judge others. But in judging others you are projecting yourself you merely show up your own lack of imagination and understanding. For this reason I am actually not so interested in judging others. It is necessary and all that, it can’t be helped perhaps, but it does not excite me very much. It is not really all that useful. The real interest in observing a country, phenomenon or event not your own is what it says about yourself.

What is litter? How did it come to be there? Is a taxonomy of litter possible? How would one go about constructing one? What does litter tell us? And, why is it important?



Again littering is a rite of passage. It colurs the landscape and becomes and index of the passage. Richer paths become bright with the litter of gaudily painted juice boxes. The mor populat the path, the brighter the ceremonial avenue is lined with the ephemeral traces of passage. If it is a place of congregation, the litter can take one staggering proportions, spilling out.


Litter is never far from the people. If this is judged. Then you do not understand the point. The West who is adept at removing what it considers filthy from its sight, only to let it poison the world in far mor insidious way, cannot bear to see litter. In Jamaica, there are many people like that. But many more who nevertheless litter the place up. What should we think of litter? Some litter attracts rats and other vermin. That is bad. And hygiene is a cogent argument for order and cleanliness. But litter here represents a more complex order. It marks the passages of daily life, and the traces of it visible. The litter is present. Much of it is harmless, and being spread around where people are, it does not infect us visibly. It prevents even larger dumps, being recycled, be it slowly, where it has marked the end of a thirst, or the end of a packet of cigerattes, or the end of the life of a car. Keeping our litter visible and well spread keeps us ner to our consumption. Litter are the exhibits of consumption, they remind us of it. Advertisements proclaim consumption, litter preaches consumption.


All these houses touch the earth so lightly. Structures which are gathered from the ground, which serve and fall back down again, while the paths that link the structure are constantly being reclaimed by a wild and delirious growth. They are made of litter. They are the houses of those that make do.



Litter in the act of throwing, littter becomes. In the act of scattering litter becomes.  Littering is an existential act. It is a coming to fulness of the metaphysical foundation of our existence.


Existence is impossible to undo. It is only barely possible to imagine non-existence. In this case everything’s existence lies at the foundation of existence. And everything’s existence becomes emplematical of existence. Existence is where the emblemata of truth are infinite. Litter is one of these emblemata. And because it comes into being by the act of discarding, and because its scatters by nature, litter lies at the basis of the Tom and Jerry Paradigm of our universe.


The processes of which litter is the product are those of contingent exchange, accidental proximity and the contingent use of that proximity for further creation. For further coming into being.


Being thrust into the world, litter is in a curious way the antimatter of culture. It is that which is thrown away, after its contents have been consumed, after its potential has been realised and drained.


In western societies, we remove litter. We bring them to revolting concentrations of rubbish, waste or garbage, which to us represents orderly disposal. Italo Calvino has written prophetically of the behaviour of waste in his invisible cities. Not two years ago a town in northern spain was buried under its own mountain of garbage.


Calvin when asking Hobbes what he will dress up as for Halloween, ignores the answer and states that he will goes as the most frightening thing of all: a barrel of toxic waste. (Check this)


In less orderly societies, litter becomes part of the landscape in a far more curious way. The case of Jamaica is particularly intersting. Things are not only discarded, but left there. The effects on society of that leaving there, are penetrating. For the litter begins to serve new purposes.


What is thrown away becomes a happy discovery. What is discarded is reborn within a different configuration.


In a community where all memory is stored in the mind, where the written word has no sway, the saturation point of progress is quickly attained. Oral cultures have the great advantage of existing in the return. They do not chase the shaddow of their own fear. The rehearse the beginning eternally. In that rehearsal, litter plays a beautiful part. My father working in Papua new Guinea, used to discard his rolls of kodak film after they had been developed only to see them used as Penis sheaths.


The recycling of litter has a wonderful past which has been adequately documented by others, I would prefer to subject that documentation to questioning. And I would argue that litter, when subjected to analysis and used to gcreate a model of exchange and re-use becomes an emblem of the curious malformation of different societies through collision.


For this it is essential that we refrain from judgement and performa phenomenology of litter, where everytime we feel jdugement welling up inside us we peel of the judgement and examine it as a pjhenomenon. In this way we will get an inifinte layering of significance in the analysis of litter, a l;ayering moreover which, like the geological stratification of our planet is all but regular, subject to horrible distortions and seemingly arbitrary disruptioons.


The project of postmodernism has been to break everything down that had been left stadning in the agggressive progressivism and optimism and anti-historicism of modernity. We have no foothold, and yet we have never had a greater understanding of the landscape we are attempting to tread. This might induce a sense of vertigo, a sense of panic as we appear to be in the abyss, which is filled with our own waste.


Now we must find a era of reconstructing, not the landscape, but of prosthesis to help us move through it.


Heidegger’s existentialist phenomenology had returned to us the sky, the earth, the divinities and our wonderful mortality. The irony is that his conception of the earth and the sky have now been sufused by the vary images that he wanted eradicated. Our imaginatio is filled with the invisible values of our environment. A phenomenology of the sky could no longer exist without reference to the compelling magic of numerical data.


And so its is with litter. A phenomenology of litter would lovingly and perversely pour over the statistical data. Of how much we consume and how much waste, a baby produces, expressed in tonnage and mountains. Like the mesopotamian, the mountain has again become a central metaphor, the divinities it holds are far more frightening than the divinities of Gilgamesh, for they are the divinities of science, telling us that we cannot hold the waste that science has allowed us to produce. Nad it mocks us for we know thqat science alone has the answer to our problem. We are bound in a new ecstatic religion.


But these third world countries, are filled with people, whose experience of our present day world is distorted in a different way than our world is. There is an elite who believes, like us that litter is “a problem” They have, mostly had western education. And that western education echoes down the stratas of society, to deep and profound pools of quietness, where there is no education, where there is a deep and incomprehensible ignorance, supplemented by wisdom: streetwisdom, the ability to survive their throoughly frightening reality. Where the consumer products of the west are as chimeras, which appear as miracles. And where their emballage, their wrapping, packagings and the exhausted products themselves outline the path of their relevance, mark the point of their irrelevance and then begin to transform themselves.



Litter is anti-consumption. It is that which is emphatically not consumed.


Litter has a role as instrument of retribution, evangelisation, it is a poslitical instrument


Mesapotamian Litter> The rising of streets.


Geology is the discipline which studies the littering universe.


Archeology studies the litter of the past: Litter makes archeology possible.


Psycholanalysis studies the litter of the mind.



What is litter? Litter is a noun. From the French Litière, from L.L. Lectaria, from L. Lectus, a bed; same root as lie, lay.


1.      A Kind of frame supporting a bed, in which a person may be b

2.      orne by men or by a horse; straw hay, or other soft substance, used as a bed for horses and other animals, articles scattered in a slovenly manner.


Bookshelf, 98


lit·ter (lît¹er) noun

1.   a. A disorderly accumulation of objects; a pile. b. Carelessly discarded refuse, such as wastepaper: the litter in the streets after a parade.

2.   The offspring produced at one birth by a multiparous mammal. See synonyms at flock1.

3.   a. Material, such as straw, used as bedding for animals. b. An absorbent material, such as granulated clay, for covering the floor of an animal's cage or excretory box.

4.   An enclosed or curtained couch mounted on shafts and used to carry a single passenger.

5.   A flat supporting framework, such as a piece of canvas stretched between parallel shafts, for carrying a disabled or dead person; a stretcher.

6.   The uppermost layer of the forest floor consisting chiefly of fallen leaves and other decaying organic matter.



lit·tered, lit·ter·ing, lit·ters verb, transitive

1.   To give birth to (a litter).

2.   To make untidy by discarding rubbish carelessly: Selfish picnickers litter the beach with food wrappers.

3.   To scatter about: littered towels all over the locker room.

4.   To supply (animals) with litter for bedding or floor covering.


verb, intransitive

1.   To give birth to a litter.

3.      To scatter litter.


Why are you giving this lecture? Aksed a student. I had used the tutorial to think about litter. We were studying phenomenology and I wanted us to come to a description of litter. For my own selfish purposes.


Apocalyptic literature has taken account of litter. It would seem that there is little left to do.




Le Lac….il est la. Evariste Carabumba, Raoul Snelder.