Is “Cradle to Grave” About To Die?

By | August 24, 2013

Old? Still holding...Here’s something I struggle with: the new models . . . of this and that.

From phones to TV screens and cars, a new model is just around the corner and the old ones seem obsolete all of a sudden, though many are not.

Do we still believe in the “cradle to grave” concept?

Or are we so driven by money, materialistic desires and keeping up with the times and the Joneses that we are slowly pushing the very concept into its own grave?

There was a time when goods were purchased with no plans of replacing them a year or couple of years later just because the new model was out. Those goods were meant to last.

As a race that keeps growing and invading more of the remote corners of the planet, we are facing two issues. The first one: the exploitation of natural, non-renewable resources to produce the goods we both need and want, though you would agree it is the “wants” that drive the most destructive behaviour.

As for the second one, it is a growing one, pun fully intended. The garbage we leave behind is a reality we can no longer run from.

Every town and city has developed a garbage satellite and whether we are aware of it or not, each of us leaves a trail of garbage, too. That the garbage trails grows long, thick and reaches far beyond the country borders is a present day situation that applies to many.

There is now domestic waste, industrial waste and e-waste, the latter being the least glamorous of all. That’s the one that reaches further than we have ever imagined.

In all fairness, few of us have pictured the kind of waste that TV screens, old phones and computers, and all the electronic paraphernalia we’re surrounded with will leave behind once they break down or fall out of our graces.

With every new model introduced an old one goes out the door. Our door, not the people in a third world country that have no choice but survive the folly of “this year’s model.”

For every new model created and its countless copies to be sold around the world, resources are being mined, people are being exploited and minds are being swayed off in a way that makes them unwilling, unable and uninterested in answering the question “Do I really need that?” That includes children. A losing trade for us all.

The fact that things become cheaper as we go, money-wise, does not help, either. They become expensive in every other way, but our health, our children’s well-being — emotional and otherwise — and the environment are paying the highest price.

To be mindful and be able to ignore a killer sale or promotional price becomes an art, perhaps not the easiest to master.

Out of sight, out of mind is a luxury concept we can no longer afford. Our purchase today impacts someone and ultimately the community we share with our fellow humans.

The old iPhone with a cracked screen that will be send to a third world country for dismantling and recycling of rare metals will find its way to haunt us. Wind and rain know no boundaries. They blow just the same and shuffle the same polluting chemicals on all of us, sooner or later.

What’s the solution? We’re too far in the game to give up the gadgets and the convenience associated with goods we’re accustomed to. But we can still work on our attachment to them.

Stick to what we have for as long as it works, no matter if the surface is no longer shiny. Opt for companies that include ethics in their business plans and never forget that each of our actions impacts the world, whether we see the results or not.

You could argue that one person’s actions will not change the world, but I choose to believe that changes have to start somewhere. Just like a fire, a spark is all it takes.

Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on August 24, 2013

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