January 19, 2021

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Community Clean Up

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

A recent Times article profiled Taylor Mali, a Brooklyn man, and his quest to remove every plastic bag from every tree in the city. Two years ago, he began yanking down derelict plastic bags with the aid of a yellow metal painter’s pole.

The article describes Mr. Mali’s ongoing duty:

In his spare time, he continues his mission: ridding urban trees of garbage. Though New York City has outlawed some plastic shopping bags, he still has plenty of work to do; he noted that some types are still exempt, and “there’s no ban on Mylar balloons.”

On a recent Sunday afternoon, as he prepared to do combat with a foe fluttering high in a London plane tree on Hicks Street, he offered a quote from the philosopher Edmund Burke: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”

What do you think of the Edmund Burke quote? Have you taken part in any neighborhood cleanups, either organized by a large group or on your own? How important is an individual’s role in keeping their town clean from garbage? Do you volunteer in another way to help improve your community?

Tell us in the comments, then read the related article to learn more about Mr. Mali’s quixotic task.


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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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