CAN the people of the world clean up after themselves? They will get their chance during the ``Clean Up the World'' campaign that takes place Sept. 17 to 19. Organizers say 3,000 communities in 75 countries have agreed to encourage millions of volunteers to pull trash out of gutters, rivers, and anywhere else they find it.
``We liken this to one of those big Southern Ocean rollers that forms and reforms and crests and breaks. This is only the start,'' says Ian Kiernan, the chairman of the campaign.
So far the wave has mainly formed in developing countries. In Korea, 6 million volunteers have registered for the cleanup, in Bangladesh 2.5 million, and in the Philippines 20 million students are expected to participate.
In the United States, eight states have organized activities. In Huntington Beach, Calif., 3,000 people are expected to comb beaches and roads, picking up trash. ``We've got banners all over the city and there will be sky writers urging people to volunteer,'' says Jessica FaBrizio of the EGBAR Foundation based in Huntington Harbour, a sponsor of the worldwide event.
The global effort got its start when Mr. Kiernan, an Australian, became distressed about the amount of garbage in the sea while sailing around the world. He came up with the idea of getting volunteers to spend a day cleaning up Sydney Harbor. To everyone's surprise, 40,000 people showed up in the first cleanup four years ago. The effort spread into a countrywide event now involving 665 cities and towns in Australia.
The Australian program caught the attention of the United Nations Environmental Programme, which gave Kiernan $100,000 in seed money for an international effort. ``We think there is a considerable importance to the solid-waste disposal problems,'' says Ganti Rao, a UN official.