We were recently thrown into the car buying world by having our old vehicle succumb to a seized engine.  I admit to not liking shopping, less so when it involves visiting car dealerships or car shopping in general.

We browsed, assessed, test drove and by the end of the day decided on a used car. With a ‘let’s sleep on it’ attached to it. So we did. The next morning we took another look and midday saw us started on the ownership procedures.

Before the final handshake we were asked about the one thing that has emotions and judgment part ways and though it’s not a race, the latter loses. Yep, it is the extended warranty issue. For peace of mind, we were told. In case anything breaks down, they’ve got you covered. To a certain extent, that is. We decided to consider it, so we were handed the chubby envelope. Shake hands, congratulations, drive safe and enjoy.


For the next couple of days we consulted with knowledgeable family and friends, read reviews, articles and opinions from both car and financial gurus, asked a mechanic, and decided, with no second thoughts whatsoever, to cancel the extended warranty. Too many nauseating clauses and not enough backing up of the actual warranty.

This has been a good learning experience. For starters, reading the list of exclusions from coverage has been an eye-opener. I read it out loud, twice here and there. I had to; the lingo is a mind-twister, so buyer beware.

As expected, this small bump caused some afterthoughts, such as why would someone, anyone who believes in keeping their conscience clean, agree to sell any product that is not backed up by a no-loophole policy. While some extended warranties may be valid (I choose to remain on the skeptics’ side) the truth is that the majority have loopholes that have to be carefully assessed. Everything is a compromise in the end.

But the afterthoughts spilled into bigger ones, triggered by recently released news about the Alberta oilsands. Yes, again, the oilsands, but this is not just any news, but news of underreported data about pollutants like mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from the oilsands tailings ponds. They are present in much higher amounts than reported and they are toxic and/or carcinogenic. Killer news indeed.

The common denominator is the same: lack of?… Why wouldn’t someone come clean about the tailings ponds? The oil extraction causes pollution which has severe adverse effects on health and the environment, but it also creates wealth and jobs, so if one is to be objective, all the premises have to be considered. Yet regardless of which side of the arguments you are on, truth should not be distorted or withheld because it is the solid ground we have in establishing whether an enterprise is worth pursuing or not. Why not report objectively then and make the necessary adjustments in order to reduce impact before someone gets hurt, wildlife trampled and the environment soiled.

The old story of money and conscience… When large sums of money are at play, there is a risk of people’s conscience hiding behind arguments that have an expiration date.

I see it often and it is troubling every time. I wrote many features about chemicals we come in contact with every day. They are cancer-causing, or have endocrine disrupting capabilities, or are associated with neurological problems. Or all of them together.

The common refrain from the industry that manufactures or the companies push them into use is the same. These chemicals may be dangerous but they are present in such low amounts that people should not be worried. Independent studies show the opposite, and the conclusions are chilling: the said chemicals have adverse reactions at very low doses.

The question is again: how could someone sleep at night knowing that they have the power of deciding to stand up for what’s right and they don’t? How can they look at themselves in the mirror knowing that they voted to keep a certain chemical in household products, or they were part of those who decided to underreport the true state of cancer-causing pollutants despite the fact that research points to dreadful, long-term effects.

The latest news regarding the exploitation of natural resources in Canada point to a reality that is hard to ignore. Despite environmental committees suggesting that certain projects pose too high a risk for people and the environment and need to be reviewed or reconsidered, people behind the projects push for their completion regardless of possible dire consequences.


I’d say lack of social conscience. Detachment from the understanding of what a community really is, and from the age-old truth that people and their environment rely on each other to stay alive.

I am inclined to say that this is a new reality, that things were perhaps different back in the day. I do not know for sure if that’s the case. What I know is that even though information is present in huge amounts and transparency is possible, the sheer amount of information in all walks of life, the number of problems that inundate people like you and me, make us lose track of things. Many important issues that affect all of us are taken care of behind closed doors by people who have the power of decision but often leave their conscience at home.

Where do we draw the line? From an individual level to communities and countries, integrity is a valuable quality.

When our house got broken into and stuff was stolen, I kept asking why and found no answer. Someone left their conscience outside the door and went through our things, trampling over beds and looking for valuables.

Were they at any point after that haunted by the wrongness of it or by the faces they saw smiling at them from pictures scattered around the house? Who knows. It may be that repeated episodes like that lower the threshold to remorse-free levels.

What can be said about people who sell questionable products, or withhold vital information, distort facts that could end up hurting entire communities and rip pieces of land apart?

Is is possible to return to acceptable levels of social conscience? After all, and I said it many times before, we all live on the same planet. The consequences of our actions will collectively affect us.

The way I see it, the worst outcome would be to have these people say it wasn’t worth it in the end, because by then the consequences of their actions will be painful and they would’ve realized that no amount of regret will make things better.

Even in the land of the ever apologetic Canadians, there is no ‘I am sorry’ to fix the long-term effects of a missing social conscience, whether at a individual, corporate or government level.