I have been irritated by the Caltrans ‘Let’s Change This to That’ advertising campaign for litter pickup and highway cleanup. Certainly litter is a water quality issue, particularly when that litter is washed into the ocean. The really big problem is not the litter, however, but the roads and highways that Caltrans has designed. The highways and wide roadways seem especially adept at accumulating litter, and illegal dumping. Could it be that the highways are such horrible places that people feel compelled to litter them? The highways are overbuilt, incredibly expensive, destroyed and divided neighborhoods, inject air pollution straight into low income communities, and prevent real solutions to climate change and livability. Maybe litter is a comment on all this.
Inspired by the campaign graphics (second below is an example), I’ve created one of my own. I took a shortcut, using something that has already happened (without Caltrans cooperation), the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco which was damaged beyond repair in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. When I have the time, I’ll look for other photos to pair, of actual changes or of potential changes. I’ve seen AI transformations that I think could play well for that, but a big part of my purpose here is to call out Caltrans greenwashing.
If this idea inspires you, I’d like to see your campaign graphics for highway removal. My ‘Let’s Change This to That’ graphic is available as a webp. Don’t know how to upload other formats.