No matter how far I wander on my personal excursions, no matter what I physically put myself through to hike, climb, and lose myself in the wilderness, I can’t escape it. It’s everywhere, as ubiquitous as product placement and apathy. From candy wrappers to destroyed refrigerators, the physical evidence of commercial enterprise and consumer ignorance is littered everywhere.

It seems like the bygone era of corny ad campaigns like “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” have become relics of a people long forgotten who actually gave a rat’s ass about things like preserving clean water and clean air and the timeless beauty of our mountains and rivers. None of that is important anymore. So what is important? I’ll tell you: what’s important is how cool you look while you’re rock climbing and tossing energy drinks down your throat, not where you toss the can.

What is important is being loudly and politically critical of people who do care. You don’t want anyone telling you what to do and what not to do. You’ll throw your trash wherever you want. This is America! A country of free citizens who take the right to crap where they – and everyone else – eats very, very seriously.

Not that the law hasn’t tried. Sometimes you’ll still see signs imposing hefty fines for littering, but those are few and far between. So are the places free of litter. The last place I saw without a trace of garbage in sight was Camp Pendleton Beach in Southern California, a Marine base. The Marines keep that beach squeaky clean – though it’s common to encounter swaths of paintballs from recent training exercises. But theose never stay on the ground for long.

I guess the lack of military discipline, a big scary guy over your shoulder who’s armed to the teeth, or just a plain old conscience is all it takes to carelessly toss your trash into a creek where people fish.

I have no idea what it would take to get people to stop taking our unique wilderness areas for granted, but I hope someone thinks it up fast.