I’m just spitballing an idea I had here rather than this being a 100% serious feature suggestion, but it’d be interesting to see what the community and staff think anyway.
A while ago while I was hiking in Thailand, I came across some discarded trash in the middle of a national park. It made me pretty sad/angry, and I took some photos of it before I picked it up. I don’t really know why I did, i just felt compelled to in the moment.
Later when I was going through all my wildlife photos, and i came across the pictures of trash, i briefly considered posting them as a sort of ‘Satire’ observation of the previously rare but more common species ‘A. litteri.’ Ultimately I decided not to because I didn’t know how everyone here would react and, after all, it’s not a real observation. I just felt like I needed to do something. I was annoyed at finding someone had discarded a soft drink and other picnic associated trash can in the middle of a national park, and I sort of wanted to call it out and draw attention to it. I guess it just made me angry and i felt like I needed to do more than just pick it up and take it with me (I obviously did do this.), but I didn’t know what else I could do.
But I was thinking - presumably most of the people here are nature lovers (why else would be on a site called iNaturalist?). I know I pickup any trash I encounter while out wildlife watching. What if for one week of the year, coinciding with world cleanup day in September (So we have missed it for this year), a new kind of observation was encouraged, and observations could be marked as ‘Litter.’ Depending on how much effort people want to put in, we could even taxonomise it into fake families (Plastics), genuses (Softdrinks cans) and species (Coca cola)
For one week people would be encouraged to upload these ‘observations’ (They obviously would not count as species for life lists and what-not), as a way to sort of present and call-out the litter problem the world is facing. The idea would be that during the week of world clean-up day, inaturalist users go to their favourite park - a national park or even a local park - to photograph, taxonomise, and then pickup & dispose of properly, any trash they find.
After the week iNaturalist staff can put together a blog post looking at how much trash the iNat community encountered (and cleanred up!) over the week, and some other statistics. What is the broad makeup of the trash we leave? Papers? Plastics? What areas is it abundant in? How much was found in National parks?
Ultimately, I suppose maybe iNaturalist just isn’t the place for this sort of thing - maybe it would be better to keep efforts focused on the main goal of the site, but it could also be a beneficial community event to get people out there cleaning up the world one bit at a time, and draw some focus and perhaps even media attention to just how bad things are.