Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Category: Environment Page 3 of 16

Are We Grateful Enough For What We Have?

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 1, 2018.

As I am writing this, approximately 8,000 homes in the Fraser Valley, possibly more, are still without power due to extreme winter weather. Kamloops is under a thick blanket of snow too, and it’s not over yet. It’s started snowing again this morning.

No complaints from where I am standing. I love winter and its beauty renewed by a fresh layer of snow every couple of days. I am also aware that if you have power and a decent amount of food in the house, it’s but too easy to call it charming and snuggle with a book and a cup of tea until you feel like poking your nose out. Which you might soon enough because shoveling notwithstanding, the white fresh powder is fascinating and there’s nothing like a walk in the deep snow with red cheeks and eyes swimming in the surrounding white wonderland.

Again, if you have all you need. We do, and that is to be grateful for. But what if power goes out, or you’re stuck on the road somewhere? Not fun. If there’s one thing that became more evident than ever in the year that we leave behind is how comfortable we have become with having our necessities taken care of. Clean (enough) air, running water, hot or cold, power, food available in stores. Shortages due mostly to extreme weather conditions bring out the question though: what if we did not have this, even for a short while?

In one of his essays, George Monbiot, a British writer, and political and environmental activist, mentions a sobering quote he heard during a talk: ‘Every society is four meals away from anarchy’. Food for thought indeed, no pun intended. It goes for more than just food I’d say, and the concept is surely worth a closer look by all of us.

What better time than now?

At the end of the year it’s good to pause and consider whether our levels of gratefulness match the life we live, more so when the daily news provides an insight into the realities of life without the comforts we’re often taking for granted. All of us who are not struggling with poverty, or other harsh realities that hack at one’s peace of mind and overall well-being, are we truly thankful for what we have?

Imagine, for example, if there would be no running water and we had to go back to melting ice or snow, so we can have drinking and cooking water. Forget laundry machines, dishwashers, daily showers or baths, or hot tubs. It sounds preposterous and yet…

Much like the Fraser Valley residents have experienced and some still do, imagine having no electricity in your home at all, even for a couple of days. Is that enough to bring up our gratefulness to the point where we ponder carefully over how we use resources to prevent waste in the year to come?

Same goes for food. We had plenty of headlines and investigative pieces on food waste in Canada and we have had the report on poverty come out with dire numbers. Can we learn from the two and bring the numbers to zero in both cases? It can be done, it should be done.

Looking back at what 2017 brought, there is much to consider in terms of blessings. From the easily forgotten blessings of everyday life, to the dramatically increased needs in situations of crisis (floods, wildfires, power outages), we have it good. Not perfect, as many can attest after dealing with extreme situations, but good.

We have heartful people around us, willing to open their homes, wallets, and arms to embrace those in need, we have creative minds that can help a community evolve, and we have, above anything else, freedom to express our opinions. We have a health system that allows for people to be given care without having to sell their homes to pay their medical bills, and we have access to information and knowledge, as well as services of various kinds. Room to improve on all of these you say? For sure, and just as well we have the choice to help influence some of those changes by choosing to change the world around us for the better, from our immediate one (yourself) to your immediate community and the community at large.

The list of blessings is a long one, and our gratefulness should match it. We are better for it when we are thankful. To recognize that is to be humbled, and in doing so, is to be lifted above simply taking everything for granted, and instead responding to the obligation to give back in any way we can. Even by being kinder towards those around us, family, friends, or strangers, and by creating a positive ripple with each of our actions.

Happy New Year to all!

The Simplicity Files: Christmas Is Better With Books

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 18, 2017.

Following a friend’s recommendation and because Thursday evening was a commitment-free day for the entire family, we went to see one of the movies at the Paramount theatre, ‘The man who invented Christmas.’ I did not know exactly what to expect, but because my friend warmly encouraged me to see it, I trusted that it will not contain much of the usual syrupy type of seasonal fare, as I do not care much for that.

The theatre hall was almost empty, but it made no difference. There was much to be charmed about in the visual story unfolding on the screen: the mystery and cruel roughness of times past, friendship and family values, justice, and not in the least, the struggle and beauty of creating a book. In this case, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The book was to be not sappy, but uplifting and humbling at once. It was supposed to give you reason to see beyond the ordinary. Well, it does, and the movie did too. When the movie ended, we lingered in our seats a while longer. Our little guy had a sweet mysterious smile plastered to his face; his brother’s eyes were smiling too. The movie had none of the present-day fare; no speedy cars jumping over bridges, no product placement and no consumerism overload. It had so much more.

It was a declaration of love for books. How ironic, the cynics among us will say given that it was still a movie. Yes, but its substance thick and meaningful rather than gossamer-like and unable to hold past the doors of the theatre, which is the case with many of the fluffy productions nowadays.

We need to be reminded of books and their ability to have us spellbound. We need everyone to wish for a book come Christmas time, no matter the age. We are told that good parenting comes with lots of reading. If we are to instill a love for books in our little ones, we ought to read to them. I’d say this is but a paragraph of a larger thesis: If we are to build a good life, we must put books in it, and reading. Lots of it.

One can argue that like much else, there is an abundance of books already. True. Walk into a bookstore and you’ll be overwhelmed. Some are better than others, and it is true that some subjects are strange rabbit holes indeed. Then again, taste is a finicky beast. What a luxury though, to be able to read… What a privilege that reveals itself through reading and has the capacity to reveal so much more and thus take us to where we can see far enough to make our collective life better.

Such is the magic that books bring about. The kind of world they build inside our minds and the kind of impression they leave upon our hearts cannot be matched by anything else. They provide a place where you find your deepest sorrows resonating with others’; and you find yourself connected and you find inspiration. The same books speak differently to different people and words burrow differently into our thoughts, but they are ultimately reminders of the most basic and pure humane features we all carry around.

I know stores abound with things to buy, and the Christmas music make us move slower through the aisles and pick up one more item that seems to be the perfect match for that person in our life… Loud and colorful advertising transforms our desire to save some of our hard-earned money into pure mush. It is but once a year, we say. But is it? One after another, they lead to the sad remark the cashier at London Drugs made a couple of days ago as she was ringing the many garlands for the lady in front of me. ‘These are so nice, but I don’t like Christmas anymore. When all is done, I’ll be broke again for the next three months…’

Truly a place that was never intended for any of us to be in. Buying beyond our power, even when the gifts are intended for our loved ones. Fewer things and more presence, wouldn’t that be a better way to celebrate for all? The fewer things can maybe contain a book or two. They do not even have to be new. A book never loses its lustre even when its pages get old.

There are still a few used bookstores around in Kamloops that have mountains of books of all kinds. Tomes of magic that never deliver less than expected. Magic like the kind found in books you will snuggle to read on a snowy day (yes, we’re all hoping for a white Christmas,) magic that lights up your children’s eyes as you turn the page following yet another adventure in a read-aloud-together kind of book.

We can run towards books when in search of joy, or quiet, or solace from life unfolding too fast or too cruel at times. The stories they hold within give us hope, make us search for better ways in life, or inspire us to think and see beyond limitations. They challenge us, and they give us freedom. They deliver us from the daily grind, and give us permission to reinvent the way we experience and give joy.

Here’s to hoping you’ll make them part of your holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Why A Different Approach Is Needed This Holiday Season And Beyond

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 11, 2017. 

Last week, the conservation group Sea Legacy (co-founded by Canadian-born photographer and marine biologist Paul Nicklen and his partner Cristina Mittermeier, also a conservationist, photographer, and writer,) released a video of a starving polar bear, aiming to draw attention to an issue that is not new but is getting increasingly worrisome: the impact of climate change on wildlife and the environment, human life included, since we are, truly, but a piece of the big puzzle we call life.

The video was shared on social media, and the heartbreaking reality the Sea Legacy team was confronted with was discussed in the news. In a nutshell, shorter winters and the melting of the sea ice causes more polar bears to go hungry, as they are forced to spend more time on land instead of replenishing their reserves by going after seals, an activity for which they need sea ice.

Other scientists concur. Nick Lunn, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada, recently warned that climate change may be wiping out the subpopulation of polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba, in 20 to 40 years. Occurrences such as a bear swimming underwater for more than three minutes (almost three times longer than normal) while stalking his prey, only points to the same issue: increased starvation, which also causes many hungry bears to walk into cities in search of food. Aside from climate change, polar bears and other Arctic creatures are affected by persistent pollutants which affect their nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems.

The reactions to the photos and video of the severely emaciated bear were diverse, and some, to be honest, rather shocking. Some called it tragic, and vowed to change their ways to reduce their carbon footprint, others said these conservationists are opportunists trying to push their own agenda (I have a hard time with the ridiculousness of such statements) spreading fake news about the climate, while this is a perfectly normal reality, i.e. wild animals starving to death or being diseased. Yes, you can shake your head.

The bleeding hearts accused the team of being cruel and filming the bear instead of feeding it (as if that would save it, or the rest of the bears threatened by the same fate.) Others went as far as to say that this kind of news ruins their weekend.

The reason I picked this topic to write about is because of the incoming reports on wildlife disappearing at a rate we are not prepared to accept. According to the WWF conservation group, we have lost approximately 60 percent of wildlife since 1970 (which is not that long ago) and by 2020 (which is too darn close) we will see two thirds of them gone. Due mostly to human activity, the WWF report said. Alarmists, some may conclude, yet other studies and direct evidence brought by scientists and conservation photographers point to the same.

Recent reports by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) draws attention to a few species that are either endangered or threatened due to human activity interfering with their natural cycles, or altering their habitat, which drastically decreases their numbers and in some cases, such as the great northern Caribou herds, pushes them closer to the tipping point (a nice way to say extinction.) Add some species of salmon to the list too, some of trout, migratory birds, and Monarch butterflies. The list is long and getting longer, and the main culprits are interrelated: climate change and human activity.

While I wholeheartedly agree that this cavalcade of troubling environmental news is upsetting (including the ever-increasing plastic and garbage issue,) more so as we approach Christmas, it is important that we not only talk about it all, but that we keep talking about it once the new news is old news.

In many retail stores the lineups are a sight to behold already and seasonal merchandise is choking the shelves. Some of it, mostly plastic, will add to the landfills, soon after the season’s over. We can hope (and help as much as we can) that those who truly are in need, such as the 18.3 percent of children who find themselves below the poverty level in British Columbia (17 percent Canada-wide), will have their needs taken care of. Past the Christmas season too, until no child is found to live in poverty – now that’s a good wish to wish and help come true.

Aside from that, if we can take the stories of our ailing world to heart and give the gifts that matter the most to our loved ones, which are time and presence, while reducing our consumption and material gift footprint to a minimum necessary (donating instead to those in need for example,) I can see that as enabling a much-needed Christmas-and-beyond miracle: our own survival in a world that needs us to pay attention to more than immediate comfort and the next thing to buy.

We can shrug or ignore reports of wildlife suffering or disappearing because of human activity and climate change, or we can start a long-awaited conversation that may see the tide turning in favour of life. Choosing the latter has no dire consequences; on the contrary. It means choosing a better future. Choosing to continue to ignore the signs we see everywhere – animals disappearing, extreme weather phenomena, severe wildfires, that is akin to playing Russian roulette at a time when playing games is not something we can afford.

No Apple Is Imperfect

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops Monday, December 3, 2017.

The word imperfect on the bag of apples caught my eye. I grew up picking apples off the few apple trees in my family’s garden, but I could not describe to you what a perfect apple looks like. Or an imperfect one for that matter. To be fair, the concept of ‘imperfect’ apples being now on the shelves, at a smaller price too, and thus helping reduce the food waste our society is so guilty of, is not a bad thing at all, but this is a two-edged sword if there ever was one.

The perfect/imperfect classification – how did we get here? To have our fruit and produce measured, and whatever does not fit the standard discarded for other uses (hopefully) or written off as garbage – how can we possibly explain that way of classifying our food without finding the whole matter ridiculous.

Truly, the word perfect is a silly one. No one human being is perfect, no life form of any kind is perfect, not even a circle that seems perfect is in fact perfect. Really, there is no perfect circle in our entire universe and the reason is delightful from a scientific perspective: you’d have to dive to the deepest possible level, at the levels of atoms, and hopefully align them, in a quest to produce a ‘perfect’ circle. Not hard to see why it can’t be.

Truly, life is not perfect. Aiming for excellence in our professional lives, taking care to do our jobs well and with consideration to all aspects of the matters concerned, no matter how big or small the job, that has nothing to do with perfection.

Why would we then expect or let’s say tolerate the very concept when it comes to our food. More so when the concept is applied to what nature delivers.

Given such high standards, one would expect that the food offering in grocery stores would be of excellent quality. Alas, that is not the case. Instead, we are seeing bacteria tainted veggies and meat products which prompts recalls but also sees people hospitalized and even clinging to life as some of the bacteria can have deadly effects. We are confronted with the reality of inhumane conditions farm animals are raised for meat, and we have yet to see that change.

Every now and then undercover footage of industrially-raised meat reaches the media and/or social media, pointing to more than imperfect living conditions which ultimately means less than imperfect meat quality reaching our table.

We are seeing questionable origin and quality seafood, produced abroad or here in our own province. Every now and then, environmental activists bring uncontestable visual evidence such as deformed fish found among the farmed Atlantic salmon on the coast (I wrote a column on the topic), which the industry argues are not the ones that end up on our plates.

They might or might not, but this kind of information signals nonetheless the fact that the hundred-plus fish farms found in the coastal waters of BC need a make-over due to the mounting evidence pointing to the impact they have on wild fish stocks (also see the recent scandal of the piscine reovirus infested fish blood released from processing plants into the coastal waters) at a time when climate change is also affecting their returns.

Perfection is hardly the word that comes to mind when putting together such narrative. Which perhaps points to the fact that we should drop it altogether, allowing our food supply to honour both the growing process and the people behind it, as well as the consumer. In allowing for the ‘imperfect’ food to reach public consciousness we open the door towards being grateful rather than critical of how nature offers itself to us through the seasonal bounty, and by understanding it as such we do better in all areas of food production.

Imagine raising our children with the awareness of the intricacy of natural processes through which we get our food and a conscience that opposes violations of any kind, such as the use of potentially toxic chemicals and unethical practices. Expecting perfection puts unhealthy pressure on growers and delivers unhealthy results to us, the consumer. Cutting corners and applying questionable methods that cannot be tested by independent observers, neither is the recipe for sustainable health and future. Which we need.

We Are All Guardians Of Our Breathing Space

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on November 13, 2017. 

If you hike to the top of Peterson Creek Park on any given day, more so on a cold one, you’ll see a blanket of yellowish, dirty air draped over the valley.

This is not new or unexpected. The surface inversion well-known to these parts increases the effects of air pollution. Whatever is released into that cold air trapped close to the surface, be it vehicle exhaust, mill emissions, or wood smoke, it all stagnates and makes our breathing air a lot worse than it should be.

There is no clear answer as to what is in the yellow plume. Winter smog is a terrible beast made worse by inversion phenomena, but knowing what we breathe in would be good. You can’t fix something if you don’t know where to start or how complex the issue.

It would be nice to know how much each polluting source adds to that yellowish layer. There is no heads-up information about mill emissions or slash pile burning. That affects some people more than others. It is unsettling to be exposed to air pollution by various industries in or around town, and not know when that will happen. Of course, when it does, people notice, but there is something to be said about habituation. Except that in case of our breathing air, it is not in our benefit at all to accept it as is.

On top of notifications about mill emissions and slash burning, there should be information sessions on how air quality is made worse by the inversion and a low venting index. If psychologically it is easy to shrug off the memory of many socked-in days when a better day comes along, and the valley air looks clean, our bodies react differently, as the perilous effects on health are compounded.

Air pollution is a real enemy to human health, and an increasing body of scientific evidence points to it. Short- and long-term effects of air pollution are real and, for the latter, deadly in many cases. The reluctance to recognize them as such have to do, I am willing to say, with the invisible nature of this threat. Should dirty water pour out of out taps, few if any would want to drink it. The air we breathe should be no different. It is true that industrial pollution accounts for much of the bad air in town. But some of the dirty yellow plume is caused by residential activity, be it driving or wood burning.

City traffic has been increasing over the years and that means an increased volume of exhaust gases. Adding to that is the unnecessary idling. There is no need to idle cars for more than 30 seconds on a cold day. Nor is idling while stopping to chat, or while running into a store for some quick shopping, or to keep warm while waiting. Just more toxic gases.

As for wood smoke, whether from residential use or slash pile burning (an environmentally unsound and health-costly solution for all the logging leftovers,) it tends to linger for a long time, which is exactly why in areas where inversion is present wood burning should be reconsidered. A recent study by a team at McGill University concluded that wood smoke increases the risk of heart attack in people over 65 by 19 percent. Residential wood heat accounts for 15 percent of PM2.5 in British Columbia, likely higher in areas like Kamloops where inversion is present.

Wood smoke is a mix of approximately 200 compounds, including particulate matter of various sizes, powerful cancer-causing and mutagenic agents. When it comes to particulate matter, the smaller it is, the deeper in the cells of respiratory tract they get. Not exactly what we want to have in our immediate environment for months at a time. As always, children and unborn babies are at highest risk due to their developing bodies. As for the elderly and those who with chronic respiratory diseases, life becomes a few times more dangerous just by breathing, and the constant irritation of the respiratory tract makes them prone to longer and more debilitating seasonal infections.

Interior Health recommends that wood burning should be done on those days when the venting index is good, which is close to 100. On a regular ‘socked-in’ day, the said index is a mere 10, which is classified as poor. Venting indexes can be found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/epdpa/venting/venting.html. It’s an eye-opener for sure, along with air monitors present around town (www.purpleair.com.) Tomorrow is forecasted to have a good venting index, by the way.

I know I am not the only one wondering about this. And I know that when there’s a will, a solution, or many, are found. We ought to find the will to reconsider the way we think about our air, and we ought to change our habits to help keep our air clean. At the same time, we ought to be able to get the industrial polluters to realize that pushing potentially harmful gases and particulate matter into our breathing space is no longer an option. Accountability is not a volatile concept.

Summers will be smokier, we are told. If some of that will be unavoidable, long-term exposure during other seasons can and should be avoided for all the right reasons. The most important one being that nothing matters if breathing is impacted.

Second Warning. What Next?

For all the times I had doubts about my hammering on the issue of climate change and bringing up various wrongs that suffocate the blue skies and kill the fish, well, the latest news chases away any feelings of inadequacy on the matter. Not that it will sweeten the deal. On the contrary.

More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries have issued a warning to humanity regarding climate change and how urgent the need to change the way we carry our business, or else. It made me feel both relieved (that I am not just gratuitously killing people’s mood) and at the same time it brought a confirmation of doom that is not a good thing for any of us. Or easily forgettable, unless you drown it in what got us here in the first place, which is consumerism and more recently, the social-media-numbing-of-the-mind phenomenon.

It is a fork in the road (again, yes) that we ought to mind. These events are becoming more serious each time, and we become less mindful of them because ‘come on, live a little, it’s not all doom and gloom’ – this is a pure and accurate excerpt from the files of my life by the way. If I had a dollar for every time it was said to me.

I know the conversation about our world suffocating is a few shades darker than many others, plus acknowledging it’s true means committing to live simpler, with less stuff and basically give up some things we collectively file under ‘comfort’ or ‘I deserve it.’ Which we are not quite ready to do. Not yet. Then we go and take another bite of the big pie that promises a feeling of fullness but never delivers. We keep on trying though because we have this short-term memory loss or at least we act like we do.

Then again, if you abstain buying that plastic wrapped plastic item that you do not need, or if you opt for New Zealand apples because they look better than the local ones, no matter how far they traveled, will that save the world? Every little bit helps, but still…

At this point in time the situation is quite serious, and your probably know as well as I do, that the much and urgently needed change of direction should come from the manufacturing end. If you search online for one of those calculators that shows how many disposable cups are created and/or thrown out every second… It’s nauseating. It makes no sense to see those numbers rolling and you feel like standing still for the next two weeks so as to not create another wrinkle on Mother Earth’s cheek. Crazy thing is, the wrinkle appears as you watch. Hard to shake that scintillating constantly increasing number off.

The minions that we are, buying in bulk, buying local and avoiding plastic, reusing bags or, if you are me, balancing a few too many things in your arms, piled high and precariously so, but feeling virtuous because no plastic bags were used in the process of buying groceries, hence no choking marine life or distantly strewn shredded immortal plastic film, we try, we try harder, we opt for no-waste solutions and we feel like we’re running in circles because someone else is holding the reigns.

‘Is this how your mind works?’ you may ask. And I will say yes. That is how it goes. If you say let’s have a coffee and we do, and the barista hands me the coffee in a disposable cup though I said the coffee is ‘to stay’, I will be mortified – not because of that one cup (out of two billion cups that Canadians add to the landfill yearly,) but because of the shifting mindset that got us to where we do not think disposable is bad and shows how entitled we are. A case of lost gratefulness I might argue…

There is no absolute sinless behaviour when it comes to the environment. Aware as I am, I leave prints like everyone else, but likely fewer because I cannot let go of this pre-emptive feeling of loss when I see the world around taking another blow. Guilt and mindfulness oblige. Or the heart-wrenching feeling that comes with the realization that we are handing over to our children this ailing, plasticated planet. As if it was ours to use like this in the first place.

Headlines speak of fisheries collapsing and yet another, bigger trash island being discovered off the coast of __________ (fill in the blanks with map in hand). There is the occasional shocking report by WWF about 60 percent of the world’s wildlife being gone and there no absolute panic but instead, other news roll in and we take cover because, really, it is just too much sometimes and we simply want to have a quiet evening away from negativity.

I think we ought to get some vows happening, you know. How about when a child is born, you must produce a vow that will include (aside from the promise to love the child unconditionally,) a line or two or ten sounding like ‘I promise, to the best of my abilities, to leave as small a carbon, garbage and slavery footprint as I can, when buying things which by the way I know not to buy new save for a few, because I know how much stuff is out there already.’ Then we should renew that vow every year or every couple of years. It might just work. Awareness, you know?

 

You see, I am so convinced that every corner of this world we inhabit, and every creature that lives in it, our kids’ smiles, their trust, and that gusto they bring about when they play in a muck or the joy when they see a squirrel scamper up the tree in the middle of the forest, all of that deserve us trying our hardest, every single day, to save the one home we share and could not be without, and in doing so we would be better for it. This is the equivalent of Mother Earth serving us a second notice of eviction. In real life, most of us would freak out and act on it.

Simplicity and all that ‘less is more’ stuff we see on Instagram or the occasional Facebook post (though surrounded by countless ads that invite to the very opposite,) that is true and temporarily filling, like a bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning. There’s a whole flock of them out there. Trouble is, if we don’t get to live them, there is not point in reading. It will never save us from anything.

I think we still have a chance. We are the lucky ones though. On this side of the world (and others too,) things get bad occasionally when a storm hits or some monster wildfire, but overall we shake it off and we patch it up by reaching into the emergency fund pockets. There are places around the world though that have so rough already it’s a downer to just read about it, let alone live it. But they do, because they have no choice.

Hence my plea. While we still have a choice. Or many.

Trick or Treat: The (Even) Darker Side Of Halloween

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on October 30, 2017. 

Just a few days ago, a big explosion and fire at a firework factory in Tangerang, Indonesia, killed at least 47 people. The death toll will likely continue to rise as many of the survivors have suffered severe burns. Among the dead, a 14-year-old girl.

My mind raced to the banners draped around town announcing great sales on fireworks. I am sure I am not the only one thinking that some of the fireworks being manufactured there are likely shipped to Canada for Halloween. It makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The factory, which seemed to have employed underage workers and had some serious safety violations, was only two months old, much like the Halloween stores we see popping up around town prior to October 31. We have to wonder where all that (cheap) stuff is coming from and who makes it.

I have already stated on more than one occasion that I am not a big fan of the one-use plastic and other questionable stuff sold for Halloween. If all would be reused to eternity, perhaps I can lend a more lenient thought towards it, but that’s beyond wishful thinking. We would not have so much excess to begin with.

Truth is, as soon as school’s back, summer items are cleared off the shelf and the Halloween merchandise returns, outdoing itself every year, and without a doubt redefining the concept of excessive. There isn’t much consideration for what it takes to bring all that merchandise to stores, or what happens to it afterwards, whether in the customers’ hands or as store surplus. Hopefully the unsold items will be saved for next year’s Halloween.

Many of the costumes though, and some of the decorations too, will likely break because that’s what cheap, fast-manufactured items do. Then, it’s the landfill, which really sees a surge after every big celebration and not only then. The scary thing is, there used to be a couple of big celebrations in the past. Now thanks to marketing wizards, there’s barely any time to breathe between them. As a society, we have shortened and fake-sweetened the distance from non-renewable resources to trash via disposable items with the most tragic long-term consequences.

This is not the case of the Halloween Grinch (how scary would that be?) but rather an argument for a return to simple fun, creativity and much less waste. After all, if it is about the kids, let’s really make it about the kids. The last thing they need in a plastic- and garbage-choked world, is a laissez-faire attitude on our part when it comes to footing the bill for celebrations like Halloween (and all the other ones too.)

Just imagine if all decorations and costumes would be homemade. The creativity involved in such endeavours would be the first great thing that comes to mind; then would be the time kids and parents would spend making them, having lots of fun with ideas, some of which may prove too hard to materialize, as some ideas do, while others will become memorable creations.

Then there will be all that time spent hands-on, minds active and far away from devices that numb them on a regular basis. There will be some frustration too, as all handmade projects carry a dose of that necessary and inevitable feeling, due to various limitations. But then, there’s the joy of finishing projects, and all that good self-confidence that comes from it. That is one amazing gift to give to our children.

As I write this, my youngest – the only one left to do the trick-or-treat in the family, and this is his last year too, – is painting a design on a homemade Roman shield. He worked very hard to bring it to this point, getting deep enough in frustration at times, just to emerge a while later with a better solution in mind. With a bit of help maneuvering woodworking tools, he also made himself a wooden sword and came up with the rest of the items for his Roman soldier costume. No, it will not look identical to a movie set costume, but perfection was never, not should ever be, part of the design.

Much like they say free money has no value, and no matter how much you get, it’ll get squandered in no time, excess merchandise such as decorations and ready-made realistic costumes will never make Halloween better or more memorable. Frankly speaking, they’ll partly make it a source of garbage, most of it unseen, because that is the story of garbage, and most of it will be disposable, single-use stuff, such as the glue-on rainbow eyelashes and blood-oozing-on-demand plastic face masks I saw in a store a few days ago, along with way too numerous to list items. We already know too well that less is more.

As with other aspects of our everyday life, remembering that in the grand scheme of things we’re but a blink, mere guests, in the history of the Earth, the best celebratory attitude should come with the least amount of trash left behind for our ‘host’ to deal with. At the end of the day, it’s not the Earth that is left with the ever-growing bill for all celebratory disposable paraphernalia, but our children and their children. Which is why we should give a better consideration to the question: Will it be tricks or treats that we hand over to them, year after year?

Page 3 of 16

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
%d bloggers like this: