As seen recently in Hanoi traffic. Last cigarette. What to do with the empty pack? Toss it out the window, of course. Aside from being a crime against nature, littering, including cigarette butts, is against the law in Viet Nam, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. (Check out this March 2021 post about smoking in Viet Nam.)
My initial reaction was to get out of my car, pick up the pack, and throw it into his truck, which likely would have resulted in a fight with fists and maybe worse, especially with the foreigner-local dynamic at play. (Macho is part of masculine identity here. While Vietnamese men don’t have guns they do often have other weapons at their disposal such as knives. I’m passionate about environmental protection but am not willing to become a martyr over something so insignificant in the larger scheme of things.) So, instead, with time running out on the light, I decided to record the moment and add the photo to my vast and growing collection of such acts – big and small – of environmental degradation.
Why do people do this? A charitable reason is their belief that someone else will pick it up. (What are the legion of street cleaners and scavengers for, after all?) My guess is that most just don’t give a shit, pardon my salty language. This is a small example of a nationwide problem, indiscriminate dumping of all manner of garbage everywhere, or burning of said garbage.
If you asked this guy if he loves Viet Nam, I bet you he would look at you incredulously and say, without a moment’s hesitation, “Of course. I love Viet Nam!” (Tất nhiên. Tôi yêu Việt Nam!) Sadly, his actions would belie his words. If you love your country, the essence of patriotism, or the planet, for the matter, you’re inclined to take care of it.
Shalom (שלום), MAA