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Don't just walk by, do something

It's better to light a candle than to curse the dark*

Why, when we see things in a public place that are not as they should be, are we all inclined to just walk by when we could, without a lot of trouble, do something to improve the situation?

In a famous speech David Morrison said "What you walk past is what you accept. If it's unacceptable, then do something about it." I'll add to that: "If I see something that's bad and I'm not willing to do anything about it, why should anyone else?"

As a specific example, the fence in the photo below partly obstructed the path. People could walk past it, but there was insufficient space when a bicyclist passed a pedestrian, or a pedestrian passed a gopher or someone with a pram. The closeness of the traffic roundabout on a fairly busy road made the situation potentially dangerous.

Importantly, there was no need for the fence to encroach on the path at all. It would have served its purpose perfectly well if it was a metre back from the path; indeed, some other parts of it were several metres back from the path, other parts were lying down, and as can be seen in the photo, there were gaps in the fence.

Why was the fence in the photo below tolerated by the hundreds of people who walked past it, probably hundreds of times, in the period of more than a year while it was partly obstructing the path?

Similarly, when we see rubbish we could pick it up and dispose of it responsibly (quite a few people do), when we see weeds in a public area we could pull them out (very few people do).

If we see something that needs to be done perhaps we should think "if I'm not willing to do something about that, why should anyone else?"

This page was started 2023/04/07, last edited 2024/04/14
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

An obstructed path

A fence partly obstructing a path
Fence encroaching on path
Thousands of people (including me) have walked past this fence in the more than a year that it has been in place and done nothing.
Many people use the path in the photo every day. I’ve used that path many times.

Why were we all so unwilling to do something about it? I suspect it didn’t occur to most of us that we could do something about it.

Why did the council allow the fence to encroach on the path when there was no need for it? Why did I put up with it for so long before I did something about it?

One reason for the inaction that was suggested to me is that we all just supposed, with little thought, that there was a good reason for the fence to be where it was. That whoever put it there had a good reason to do so. That the authorities wouldn't have allowed it to partly obstruct the path if there was no need.

I took this photo so that I could send it to the local (Mandurah, WA) council and ask that the fence be moved. They sent an automatic reply, showing only that they had received my request. A week or so later, having received nothing further from council, I moved parts of the fence myself and informed council. I told council that I could not move the fence as far as it needed to be moved because of its weight. Some weeks later I received a message from Council saying that the matter had been resolved - I saw no change in the position of the fence. With some help from an unknown person I have since moved the fence completely off the path.

Of course the far broader question, and the reason I created this page, is why do we sometimes put up with something that is poorer than it might be when we could easily improve it?

This section added

Mandurah station multi-story carpark

Marked column
In the Mandurah multi-story carpark the level is marked very conspicuously on some of the columns but the row number is not.

If the row number is marked at all it is on the side that the great majority of people parking their cars cannot see. Depending on where they park people parking will likey have to walk around to the far side of a column at the end of a row of cars to see the row number (which for some obscure reason is called the zone number).

Note in the photo on the right that the level (G - ground) is conspicuous, but the row (zone) cannot be seen from this angle. Note also that there is nothing on the distant column; most columns are unmarked.

Unmarked column
On 2023/10/06 I contacted the relevant authority, TransPerth, asking that they mark the row number on the columns so that people can see it.

All that is needed is for the columns to be marked on the sides that people who park can see - such as in the photo on the right.

By 2023/11/20 I had not had a reply from TransPerth.

Pond with stepping stones
This pond was in a well used walking trail. Almost everyone just tried to walk around it. Finally someone did something: placed stepping stones. See Peel/Mandurah observations for more on this particular case.
Photo iPhone 11 Pro, 2023/08/19

The most curious thing

Perhaps the most curious thing about my own lack of action on the fence discussed above is that I have acted on other things, such as weeds in and adjacent to parks and picking up roadside rubbish. I have planted thousands of trees in public and private places and revegetated some wasteland against the opposition of the government authority. I have exposed a council for destroying roadside vegetation in contravention of their own rules.

And in particular I have taken action in spreading the facts about wind power and countering the lies and delusions of those who have opposed wind power, yet it took me a year to realise that I could, and should, either get this fence moved or move it myself.

Does fear of litigation stop people from acting?

In the situation where the pond of rainwater obstructed a trail most people just attempted to walk around it, but that tended to just spread the muddy area as well as damaging some of the adjacent native vegetation. Some people just turned around and went back the way they came.

Why were people reluctant to do anything to improve the situation? Was it that they didn't think of doing anything? Was it laziness, or might it also have been fear of litigation?

With these bricks in place and in this very litigious age, if someone was to slip off a brick and twist an ankle or even break a hip, would they consider suing the person who put the bricks there? I can well imagine that fear stopping someone from trying to fix the situation.

Is it time our courts started making people take more responsibility for their own choices and actions, rather than trying to blame others - especially in cases when those others are well intentioned?

It's better to light a candle than to curse the dark

Fallen tree obstructing path
Tree over path
The great majority of people will just walk around a fallen tree like this. Cutting away the part that is obstructing the path is the work of only a few minutes.
The saying about lighting a candle has been attributed to William L. Watkinson who used it in 1907. It has been used by Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International (hence Amnesty International's emblem). It would have to be one of my favourite quotes.

This is so fundamentally important a concept, and one that a great many people apparently fail to grasp, that I should explain what it means. It is this: if you don't like the way something is, don't just complain about it, do what you can to make it better.

Putting it another way, "Don't just walk by, do something".

This section added

The dishonest politician

In February 2024 Australia's federal government made public a proposal to establish an offshore Windfarm zone near my home in Mandurah (the closest turbines, if the wind farms were to be built, would be about 40km away).


What could the wind farm zone achieve?

The burning of fossil fuels is widely recognised as the main cause of climate change, ocean acidification, ocean warming and sea level rise. The air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people world-wide each year.

The offshore wind farm zone could contain wind turbines of 20GW total capacity. If built they could generate clean renewable electricity that would result in reducing Australia's emissions by millions of tonnes per year.

The politician whose constituency bordered the wind farm zone's northern section, Andrew Hastie, decided to start a very misleading campaign against the wind farm zone. (Mr Hastie is Liberal, the government is Labor.) Mr Hastie's activities amounted to a scare campaign.

Whether or not one approves of something like an offshore wind farm, no one, especially someone in a position of some power and responsibility, has the right to lie and misrepresent the situation.

Following my own advice, I decided to 'not just walk by, do something about it'. I attempted to get started a campaign to replace Mr Hastie with an honest, progressive community independent politician. Whether my efforts will come to anything remains to be seen.

In Australia a few community independent politicians were elected in the federal election of 2022. They have already changed Australia's parliament and government for the better.

Mr Hastie is just one dishonest politician. We should all do what we can to replace all the dishonest politicians with honest ones. Don't just walk by, do something

Related pages

Related pages on this site...

Contribution to our community and planet

Compassion, not just for our fellow humans, but for all life on Earth

Selfishness or altruism

Weeding in Erskine, Mandurah, Western Australia

Civic pride

Picking up roadside rubbish

Art experts, who are they? Why do we allow so-called art experts to tell us what art is good and what is not?

Ethics, in general

Debunking the lies of the wind power opponents (including Joanne Nova. I noticed that Joanne is continuing her lies right up to the time of writing this page. I haven't written anything in connection with 'hopeless Jo' in years, I wrote my exposè of her lies way back in 2014.)