Re: It’s time to face up to our carbon footprint past, letter to the editor, June 27
I am writing in response to Greg Hoover’s recent Community Comment and Tony Dales’ personal “mea culpa” regarding his youthful overuse of fossil fuels, etc. Thanks, Tony, for your honesty and thoughtfulness, about this very important subject.
As a late baby boomer, I am a lifelong transit user and I have been a vegetarian for more than 30 years, so my carbon footprint (at least in these two respects) may be somewhat less than others.
However, my husband drives a truck for work and to run errands, and I have been known to drive in the HOV lane with him, from point A to B and back. Full disclosure: we also went on a bucket list trip last year to Africa, on airplanes, to go on a safari. Ironically, we did this in order to see groups of wild animals in their natural habitats before they go extinct.
So, of course, we, like most North Americans, aren’t perfect. We have been debating whether to buy an electric vehicle when my husband retires in the next year or so. However, this decision is not as simple as it sounds, because a number of factors need to be considered.
The biggest one is not the cost of the electric car itself, but whether we can afford to install an electric charging station at our own expense, because there aren’t many available in South Delta right now.
Also, like many people, I am thinking about our society’s general overconsumption of plastic, and what we can do to reduce our personal use of it. Psychologically, it is a daunting task. While the banning of single use plastic bags is a nice, but largely symbolic gesture, I don’t see how this is going to make even a dent in the problem that was created a long time ago. (The first synthetic polymer was invented in 1869, as a substitute for ivory, used in the manufacture of billiard balls; the ivory was obtained through the slaughter of wild elephants.)
For example, this morning I woke up and had a shower: I touched a plastic shampoo bottle, a plastic brush, a plastic toothbrush, a plastic deodorant, a plastic bag in the wastebasket, you get the idea. Let’s be honest: we are all guilty of using plastic, in our everyday lives, not just the baby boomers.
So the real question is: What are we really going to do about it to save our planet? For all of us, not just for the Next Generation. (This includes you, Greg Hoover.) And what are the youth, many of whom are now blaming us for this problem, going to do about it?
Recently, I watched a TV show in which one main character, a transgender millennial billionaire, was eating lunch out of a glass Mason jar instead of a plastic container. However, in another scene, this same person was taking a private plane to and from business meetings, all over North America, while using a number of electronic devices.
This fictional young person demonstrated how their one positive action to save the environment (using glass instead of plastic) could easily be negated by other actions that really harm the environment (airplanes consume large amount of fossil fuels; electronic devices are made primarily from mined metals, which are not easily recycled).
So, if everyone, both young and old, is really serious about saving the planet, then we have to think about what we are all doing on a regular basis. (I am writing this while a large barge of Canadian garbage is being shipped back from the Philippines to Deltaport on the Canada Day long weekend.)
These are some little things that we all can do right now, today, starting with focusing on the big four polluters of our planet: 1) Plastic bags; 2) Plastic bottles; 3) Plastic straws and 4) Single-use plastic or Styrofoam take-out containers (including mugs and cups). We can 1) Take cloth and mesh bags to the grocery store with us, when shopping for food (mesh bags can be used for produce); 2) Take refillable water bottles with us everywhere, instead of buying plastic bottles of water; 3) Buy glass or metal straws, and leave them in our cars, backpacks or purses; 4) Take glass containers, clean peanut butter jars or bento boxes with us, when going to the deli counter, or ordering take-out sushi; and 5) Buy refillable coffee mugs ($2 at Starbucks), and use them at the coffee shop.
However, this is just the start: we can also 6) Reduce long airline, cruise and road trips to every couple of years or so, and take more “staycations”; 7) Use transit more; bike or walk, if we can; 8) Buy larger refillable containers of dish soap or shampoo, instead of small bottles of dish soap or shampoo; 9) Do less online shopping, and do more local shopping; and 10) Buy donated recycled goods from our local thrift store, and support our local hospital.
As a mass consumer society we can do this, but we all need a big psychological reboot, in order for these actions to become habitual. We also need to convince our levels of government (and people like Hoover) that less "small steps for man" are needed, and many more "giant leaps for mankind” are necessary, in order to deal with our current “climate emergency”.
Despite what some prominent local and global leaders have said recently, climate change is not fake, it is quite real. The changes in our local and global weather cycles alone cannot be ignored by us anymore.
However, it is easier to pretend that this "climate emergency" is not a serious issue because real change is hard and takes personal effort, and most people have become quite complacent about it.
Talk is cheap, but the solution to this problem probably isn’t going to be. We are either going to have to start paying for it now, or we are going to be paying for it later.