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The Dump: A Visual Exploration of Illegal Dumping on Public Lands in Rural America

Introduction

This study examines a commonly overlooked form of criminal activity in the countryside – the act of illegally dumping piles of waste materials onto public lands. After a visual examination of the various types of debris that are commonly dumped in these areas, consideration is given to the attitudes, motives and rationalizations that lead to the act of dumping. This study attempts to contextualize this activity within the framework of environmental sociology, emphasizing how attitudes about the natural environment, but also how the physical environment itself, can affect the propensity to dump. This study employs the more specific and quantifiable activity of illegal dumping piles of debris onto public lands in order to more clearly distinguish this activity from similar or related criminal enterprises that occur in rural America; however, it is important to note that the deviant element of this activity is central to the investigation. More specifically, the extent to which this criminal activity is viewed (by either the perpetrator or the community) as deviant has bearing on whether the activity is discouraged, whether penalties or alternatives are provided, the extent and frequency of this activity and, arguably, whether or not illegal dumping occurs in the first place. Finally, solutions to the problems posed by illegal dumping are considered in terms of wiser public policy informed by these social scientific findings.

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