Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: environenment

Is “Cradle to Grave” About To Die?

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

Pink Corn To Go

The package read Kandy Corn – The sweetest variety, a favorite summer treat. It was given to us with a bunch of other seeds to plant. But in one corner there was a stamped warning: “Contents poisonous. Do not eat. Do not let kids handle it. Contents sprayed with chlorpyrifos.” Right.

I opened the package nonetheless. Curiosity does that to people. At least I didn’t do it like Alice in Wonderland did. It said “don’t eat” so I didn’t. Plus I know I’m in no Wonderland when it comes to seeds that are not heritage seeds, since the altering of good old plants has started (not just GM plants but also chemically treated.)

The kernels almost looked ashamed of themselves. They were coated in bright pink and some of that substance rubbed off on the paper. It was a crime scene alright. I cringed and showed it to the boys. More cringing ensued.

The purpose of having a garden aside from the obvious (growing food) is to teach my boys about how food happens. Yet the sprayed chemical defeats the purpose. Keep away from kids means they’re not only not a part of growing the food, but they’re getting a mighty twisted idea about the starting point of a garden or plant too.

The questions bubbled up: will the chemical stay on the seeds after if put them in the soil (not that I would ever do that but entertaining an idea for the sake of finding more about it is a necessary and valuable enterprise). Will the chemical transfer to soil and affect bugs, many of which are helping the plants grow, will it affect butterflies, birds, will it affect my boys whether now or later?

I’ve never been friends with the pesticide idea, or any kind of chemical found on food. Avoiding something like poison is a figure in speech in most cases, but awfully accurate in this case and definitely not funny. If people find an excuse to use a bit of pesticide here and there, they are on their way of creating a demand and that will create an offer they cannot refuse. Treat with chemical, bugs and weeds die, hassle disappears, plants grow. Ta-da! Crop ready to go to the eager but unaware customer = you and me.

We’re paying in having soil, air and water being …well, soiled. We’re paying in sickness; increased severity and higher number of people with food allergies, earlier onset age for allergies and other health problems. Like I said, it’s no Wonderland and unless you look really close it’s hard to see it that way. After all, shelves in gigantic stores all over Canada and all over the Western world are stocked with perfectly looking produce. Everything available at all times, no matter the season. No warning of toxic substances on the produce either. Because let’s entertain the idea for a bit: If it would say “Caution: Sprayed with toxic chemicals that could affect your nervous system” would you buy it? Would you eat it? Thought so. Me neither.

I know people who balk at eating an organic apple that happens to sport a bruise due to temporary manhandling yet they would grab a sprayed shiny apple without any concerns for what they’re about to eat.

Like I often say, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s the most insidious kind of pollution – literally so, no pun intended.

Back to my pink corn. Am I crying wolf over a few dyed kernels?

According to the National Pesticide Information Center based in Oregon, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that is targeting the nervous system of insects. Ultimately the insect paralyses and dies.

According to the same source, people and pets can suffer the same effects without the lethal outcome when exposed briefly to the chemical. So no death is good news, but exposure to small amounts – how small is small – may cause runny nose, increased saliva or drooling, dizziness, nausea, headache. Serious exposure – how much is too much? – can cause vomiting, abdominal muscle cramps, muscle twitching, tremors and weakness, and loss of coordination. Ouch.

The list of possible affections continues. With some good news: No connection with cancer has been established whatsoever. That’s good. But bad news for children. Exposure has been linked to changes in social behavior and brain development. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and all things related?

I scratch my head, I send away the raucous loud monsters inside that cannot keep still when I come across yet another chemical that is out there for children to breathe and touch and eat, whether or not they handle the pink corn. Because unless something has changed since 2012 when the chlorpyrifos was reviewed by Health Canada, the very pesticide is still in use – whether limited or not does not brightens my perspective at the moment – and finding its way into the air, soil and water that we rely on to exist.

The same report states that it takes weeks to years for all the chlorpyrifos to break down.It binds to soil particles and it travels through the air too, after  being sprayed on plants. Some birds such as robins have been killed by this chemical and it is also toxic to fish and invertebrates,including earthworms. The teeny compost soldiers in the soil.

Final punch: very toxic to bees. That too. Bees have been on the decline (elegantly put) for a few years now. They pollinate the food we grow. We have fruit and other foods because of the hard pollination work bees do. Chemicals affect bees, bees die, well, you do the math. I’m nauseous.It can’t be the pink corn because I haven’t touched it. The proximity of it? Perhaps.

When are we going to stop this? And how? We have to. The pink corn was throw way (yeah, still around somewhere – the irony!)

This is but one chemical. There are many. It can be done. Agree? Suddenly I can’t stomach pink anymore…

Why Half-Assed?

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations

It’s venting day. Part of life. Before I go on, I’ll offer a disclaimer: If you expect me to be happy or calmly pensive or simply relate about things that make my heart jump and dance, well, there’s a lot of that in here, but occasionally I will rant and stomp my feet and I think my words, even though I might not put any in caps today, will be loud enough. OK, that’s done.

Today found me and the boys at the beach on a “Keep Vancouver spectacular” clean-up-the-beach mission. A mouthful, I know. Bear with me though. Rain pouring down like someone punched holes in the sky, we make our way to the beach and meet the others – kids and parents. We each get rubber gloves, tongs, giant tongs, lots of plastic bags that come individually wrapped plastic pouches and with a piece of cardboard inside to keep the good form of each of the plastic bag that have Glad written all over them. Bad form, in fact, as Captain Hook would say, and accurately so. Bad form.

After we get equipped we start our mission. The beach was clean, having been cleaned up just a couple of days ago as a lifeguard explained later on. No worries, the kids can still get a good lesson in how to care for the place they live in. Their city. A pouch in what we collectively call “the environment”. We find cigarette butts, a few pieces of old wet paper, some beer caps, two short pieces of string and a soaked and sandy tennis ball which we leave on a log for the next dog who forgets his toys at home. Barely a handful of garbage. Kids switch to a hunting mode and fight for every piece of garbage they could find. It’s a competition, you see, who collects the most.

We return to the parking lot bedraggled and rather empty-handed. At least ten bags lie on the grass. almost empty, except for two of them. One kid found a seagull skull, another a pineapple crown. It’s cold. Where will all the bags go, I ask. In the garbage bin. No, how about we dump the garbage from all in one bag and save the rest? Overruled. Too complicated or too dirty. Well, it’s garbage. The dump hates plastic, we know that by now yet we still send it that way. Come on. I’m behind a glass wall or something, no words make it through.

The kids are comparing the collected treasures, who got more – it was a competition after all – and they are given hats to remember the event. And the idea. The gratification factor? The “what’s in it for me” worm has to be satisfied or else. Now I’m bitter. They are given hot chocolate – a most welcome treat, but – GASP! in Styrofoam cups. Cruel joke (at the expense of what we collectively and absent-mindedly call “the environment”), irony, lack of proper planning, call it whatever we want but the message is the same: It’s wrong! It dirties the day, the mission and everything about it. Styrofoam is evil, one of the least biodegradable man-made materials out there, it leaks chemicals into hot drinks that happen to have a certain content of fat and the idea of drinking from them on the day when the kids fight over a small piece of biodegradable piece of wet paper like their lives depend on it, well, it’s wrong. WRONG on all levels and if you don’t think so please feel free to share your reasons. So my big fat screaming question is this: Why do we do it half-assed instead of going all the way. Why not use every opportunity to teach our kids about how to really do it the right way? Why not go for the least amount of stuff left behind, especially when you’re out to collect garbage left behind by others?

What then, you say, what can satisfy the finicky and frowning Miss Criticism? I won’t go overboard but I’ll say this:

  • There’s biodegradable plastic bags made by companies with a stellar environmental stewardship like Seventh Generation (no, no money for me here, I simply like the ideas they play with and the stuff they sell). Let’s buy those. A few only, making sure they’re fat and plump before heading to the dump.
  • There’s bring-your-own-mug-if-you-want-hot-chocolate kind of policy to enforce (an effort, I know, but are we not supposed to teach our kids that all things that are worthy come at a price. Are we not yet ready to teach them that the “have your cake and eat it too” is a lousy fallacy)
  • There’s opportunities like the one today to teach kids that it all starts with buying less, relying on less, and definitely not going for the one-use-only articles anymore. That’s so last century. A nasty joke.
  • Today was a good opportunity to teach them about plastic bags, the plague of today. We used so much plastic today it makes me gag. Why not? Why stop mid-sentence?

Rant over. Do as you please, but I invite you to leave a comment. If you feel like it of course.

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