Truku Aborigines from Pratan — an Aboriginal settlement in Hualien County — said that tourists littering along the Sanchan River (三棧溪), a popular river trekking destination, has been greatly ameliorated thanks to a unique sign erected next to the lake.
The sign reads: “Whoever litters shall be cursed by the spirits of Pratan’s ancestors. Those who pick up garbage left by others shall be blessed by the spirits of Pratan’s ancestors. Take home what you bring — it is a cinch.”
Pratan Community Development Association director Lin Yi-lang (林一郎) said there are four such signs along the river in sections most frequented by tourists, adding that they are directed at locals too.
He said that every summer, people visiting the river leave large amounts of garbage behind, prompting residents to come up with the idea of calling on the spirits of their ancestors to deter people from littering.
A tourist surnamed Yeh (葉) yesterday said that the signs reflect local indigenous culture and the residents’ hope of keeping the environment clean, and that they also teach tourists a lesson about respecting Aboriginal opinion.
He said that while it is wrong to litter and the act should be condemned, he found the idea of people receiving blessings for picking up trash interesting.
Meanwhile, a tourist surnamed Lin (林) said that, for all the signs’ creativity, he thinks they will not be of much help in deterring littering.
Tzu Chi University professor of communication studies Peng Chi-hsiu (彭之修) said that, while fear and reward are common tools employed to galvanize or restrain people, the effectiveness of these tools could be boosted if the signs were modified.
Most people stop reading upon seeing the word “curse,” limiting the efficacy of the signs, he said.
Peng recommends moving the part about blessings to the front to better encourage people to maintain the environment.
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