Dramatic. I know.
I've always liked Earth Day and Easter. I will admit, tho., in the past several years both have lost their glamour and power. I think we've become complacent and not challenged ourselves far enough to bring Mother Earth back into our daily lives, but instead, as today is Good Friday, we consume more and replace things sooner. Basically we're doing the same stuff that we did ten years ago for Earth Day (walk or bike instead of drive, turn off the lights, don't waste electricity) but were not really tackling the problems:
Problem 1: Don't fix it, replace it
In 2009 I purchased a Sony Blu-Ray DVD player for a Christmas gift. We bought a new flat screen TV during Boxing Day sales to go along with it because the 19" CRT TV was "too small to watch good quality movies on." We sold the old TV and DVD player to a family that wanted to give their children a playroom. This past December, the Sony Blu-Ray DVD player wasn't reading DVD's or Blu-Ray's anymore, for whatever reason, so we brought it in for repair and paid $30 for the estimate. The repair came out to $275 (plus 12% tax and an enviro levy). How did repairing this thing come out to 200% higher than a new piece of equipment? This problem is so systemic in how corporations are structured that the parts to repair the equipment are higher than replacing the damaged/broken piece at market value. I tried to do the right thing, but my economic senses took over. So, electronic recycling it is and if you think you can toss out an electric item in the trash, you are gravely mistaken. Mercury and plastic anyone?
Problem 2: Bigger is better
Also last Christmas, three of us drove from Vancouver to Calgary for the holidays in my Yaris. Once we crossed the provincial boundary from B.C. to Alberta there was a complete change of vehicle choice. My comfortable Yaris with three passengers was tackling obnoxious oversized half-tone trucks with one passenger. I didn't see another Yaris in Alberta for the entire time I was there, I was mortified. How is it that one part of the country can be so distant from another part? How did the richest part of the country seem like the most wasteful in every single way? No recycling, plastic everything, no organic foods, and huge everything. Everything
was is bigger in Alberta. When we drove back into Vancouver, Jason remarked "It's nice to be back where cars are small again." So much plastic. Too much livestock. What a waste.
Problem 3: I can't see it, therefore it doesn't exist
There is a large misconception that you can achieve anything by dictating the price without product knowledge. Fifty-percent of the people I speak to do not have the budget to achieve their renovation or remodeling goals with the products I specify. What this means is that they are turning to lower grade products, manufactured overseas, with unknown working conditions, using unknown chemicals, and unknown disposal and handling procedures. When I say to a prospective client "I can arrange a factory tour if you are deeply concerned." or "Did you know that the manufacturer is family owned and actually has a milk farm?" the attitude changes. This is real, tangible, product that caring corporations are producing. We are so connected now that there is no reason to walk into any place of business without being fully educated about the product and principals offered before you purchase. There is no excuse!
Wether it be Problem One, Two, or Three, I think the future of Earth Day and our post-industrial consumerist choices are what are driving our ideas. Corporations have keenly tapped into our inner judgement, something that is sacred, and we are making choices based upon a false perception of choice when it's actually marketing, like instead of a hanky we buy disposable tissues. The idea of Earth Day has become plastish. It's moulded, it's green-washed and it's unchallenged. Who had a Grandmother that saved everything (especially plastics) and reused them? How did we go from saving the plastics in order to reuse them, to simply throwing them in the trash only to replace them with more? Buy eggs from the farmer around the corner, apples from the orchard down the way, use all of it an then throw it in the garden. Why can't we be like that again?
I think it's pretty clear that I'm tackling the problems from my end where I can, in my urban landscape with my financial means, but I'm admittedly no Earth Angel either. I have my consumerist problems too: I continue to eat poultry and seafood, I end up with a plastic bag instead of bringing cloth ones, and eating local despite so much good food in B.C. is a challenge I can't financially face. So I think it would be fair to say that today, this NEW Earth Day, that I am picking one of the three latter fair and challenging myself to do better and I'm giving myself the time to do it right. In the next 30 days, either vegetarianism, plastics, or local foods will be a relevant issue and changed my life.