Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on February 6, 2017.
What do sharks and glass jars have in common? If you’re ready to answer ‘Umm, nothing’ I will ask you to indulge me the next few paragraphs to show you the connection.
When my youngest was four, we watched a documentary called ‘Sharkwater,’ which ended up being a game changer. He has always had a love for marine life, sharks in particular. Perhaps living on the coast and spending many long hours on beaches had something to do with it. We have since amassed a large collection of shark literature.
The documentary ‘Sharkwater’ pushed it farther. It made my little guy into a relentless shark defender. It sparked great conversations about the state of the oceans and it made all of us revisit the predigested shark dogma that we have been subscribing to for a long time. It inspired many homeschool projects, and it added arguments to the ongoing dialogue about climate change.
Rob Stewart, the director of ‘Sharkwater,’ was a Canadian biologist, ocean and shark lover, and a dedicated environmental activist. He boldly and unapologetically brought up the subject of climate change, ready to pursue it and wake people up to it no matter how big the risks of doing so. I am using the past tense here because sadly, he died last week while diving for new material for a ‘Sharkwater’ sequel.
His legacy (including another documentary called ‘Revolution’ which I highly encourage you to watch,) is one that we must have an ongoing conversation about; more so because as a country, we have yet a long way to go before we can build up to a reputation of climate protectors, which we should for obvious reasons.
Our environmental stewardship record is a tarnished one due to tar sands, pipelines, dams too big and too damaging, mines too unregulated and waters too unprotected. The list is not exhausted yet. Like everything else though, save death, this can be challenged and changed, and ultimately worked into a better reality.
That reality (caring about the world we pass on to our children,) ought to start in our own backyard, individual and city-wide too. Case in point: The city’s decision to have our recycling taken care of in a different way starting next year seems like a good one from afar. That is, until you find out that glass jars and bottles, and plastic bags, will not be part of the new recycling program. Right.
Put simply, if you have time, a car, and dedication, you will likely set aside the glass containers and all the soft plastic, and diligently take them to a recycling depot regularly. Gas will be burned, and time will be spent. The cheeky ones will say it’s time spent saving the planet, yet the exhaust gases to and from will fog up the good deed lenses.
The thing is, people pay city taxes and part of that includes removal of garbage and recyclables. Moreover, we choose leaders who oversee our continuous well-being and make it their mission to care for our health and our environment, among other things. Today’s reality includes climate change. If you don’t believe in that… well, then the overwhelming amounts of trash ought to raise an alarm bell.
We have too much stuff: we buy too much, we throw out too much and we recycle too little in the end. ‘Reuse, recycle, repurpose’ sounds good in an expo context as a logo of sorts, but if not applied fully in real life, then we are missing the point.
Leaving glass and soft plastic out of the collected recyclable items translates into extra garbage. Glass is, after all, 100 percent recyclable – endlessly that is – and the process renders a product that is just as clean and reliable as the product it was made of. Hence the obvious path: we should rely on glass more than we rely on plastic, and we should aim to recycle it to the last jar or bottle. That would reduce our garbage output, reduce the plastic dependency and overload too. Overall, we would get one step closer to making our world more sustainable.
I remember reading a book about the psychology of effective dialogue. Here’s something I remember from it. In face of a less than attractive offer, asking ‘Is this the best you can offer me?’ or ‘Is this the best your business can help us out with?’ usually elicits a positive response. People want to do a good job. We all strive to do better, and a reminder that there is room for better service is enough to ignite the spark.
Being environmentally aware and also business savvy do not have to be not mutually exclusive. That being said, I think it would be fair to prompt the city to reconsider their choice of how they deal with our recycling items by asking: Is this the best you can do for our community?
Rob Stewart likely asked himself the same question when, as a wildlife photographer, he came across shocking things happening in our world. He chose to do better: he became an environmental activist and produced inspiring documentaries. Though he left the world much too soon, he left a better one behind.
So there, sharks and jars do have something in common. They can fuel our determination to do better by our beautiful world, and by our children. Many things can. All we have to do is open our eyes, learn and act in better ways. While we still have the luxury to make choices, that is.