Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on June 19, 2017.
A few days ago, I was caught, yet again, in a conversation about lawns in Kamloops. How they should be green and the fact that some people manage to maintain them green all summer despite heat and water shortages, is but proof that it can and it should be done. Aesthetics matter.
Indeed, water shortage is not the first thing that comes to mind these days. After seeing creeks and rivers inflate with snowmelt, and lakes growing to scary sizes, many would think we have too much water to begin with, so why not water lawns daily or at least every other day to prevent dryness from setting in?
Because freshwater supplies are limited. Yes, Canada has plenty of it, but a recent assessment of the watersheds by the WWF Canada (where data exists, though information is generally lacking), concluded that many of our precious freshwater sources are under threat due to pollution, climate change and excessive water use to name a few. An average daily consumption of 330 litres of water per person – though some communities do not even have clean water for drinking – places us among the highest consumers in the world.
It’s estimated that 5 litres per day are the minimum necessary to be able to survive. If you go to half of that you enter desperation zone, barely surviving, yet how many of us can picture living on 2 litres of water a day? To think that flushing a toilet sends 6 litres down the drain, (for the new efficient ones that is!) adds to the mind boggle.
Going back to watering our lawns to keep them green, more so in our arid environment; the very enterprise seems not only futile and illogical but irresponsible, given the actual price of freshwater. And yet we do so, on top of flushing our large reservoir toilets, taking daily long showers and baths if we please, and washing our laundry by the half-loads if we want to. Water price is simply not a concern.
We’re not better when it comes to food either. A recent undercover footage of severe animal abuse by chicken catchers at a facility in Chilliwack is shocking proof of that. But that’s not the most shocking thing about it. It’s the fact that we already know that. Cheap, highly abundant food comes with a very high price.
If many years ago the price of large agricultural operations was not known, social media and animal rights activists brought a level of awareness few can deny. We know the truth.
And just like that, we know that many people in poor countries are caught in slavery, making many of the goods we so lavishly buy, throw away, buy some more of and upgrade as we see fit because for us it’s not a matter of life and death but of saving money to get to the next desired item. We know that the amount of garbage we produce is overwhelming and that many unwanted items (broken electronics for example) end up in toxic piles that poor people in other countries disassemble for a few cents if that.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, cheap and disposable comes with a lot of suffering, whether it is people, animals, or the environment. As a society, we have come to accept that. Some of us go the extra mile and start small businesses with fairly-traded items. Other vow to buy slavery-free, suffering-free items and thus pressure even larger retail stores and corporations to clean up their act. Every decision, no matter how small, and every conversation that brings knowledge and awareness to the table leads to change.
There is a price to pay for being oblivious to suffering and it’s increasing with each day we take our focus elsewhere. As with many things, when the pain, whatever its nature is, strikes closer to home, perspective changes and willingness to do things differently increases.
After installing water meters, a few municipalities saw that people reduced their water consumption. Knowledge brings awareness, and that pushes people to acting differently. The more, the better.
Witnessing animal abuse and having periodic scares about various bacteria outbreaks in our food supply should be enough to start a loud enough conversation that would be heard by many. That a few workers got fired is more of a band-aid solution that has the media satisfied but does not truly solve the problem.
Educating ourselves to ask, ‘What is the actual price of ___________?’ as we go about our lives may seem like hard work and rather depressing too. Yet taking one skeleton out of the closet after another and adopting better ways to life, makes for widespread lightness of being for so many others.
It takes courage to learn, to talk about, and most of all to change things. But it may just be one of the most worthwhile endeavours we engage in, personally and as a society. Choosing to live in a way that does not have us avoid the truth or have it twisted it by a cohort of PR people who ultimately provide us with a license to keep on hurting, is but an honourable and honest way to be. It makes for a better journey, or, if you prefer, good karma.