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Mira Aleta

Environmental Concerns

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At the risk of getting really deep in the weeds, I'd like to write about some of my perspectives on environmental concerns.  We have been seeing the media take more notice of environmental concerns of late, and for good reason.  Unless one holds a climate denial viewpoint close to heart, most of us are concerned to varying degrees about the environmental degradation that is being wrought by a mixture of extreme temperatures and weather events, rapidly melting glaciers, depletion of important ecological sites and the endangerment/extinction of plant and animal life therein, threats to the PH balance of the ocean, noise pollution on land and in the oceans, plastics accumulation in waters and on beaches, etc.  The list goes on and on. 

I have been trying to sort through all of this in my head, while reading as much scientific evidence as my social service trained mind can reasonably absorb.  I have come up with the following list of ways that I can contribute.  There is some philosophy within each item, and some of it may hit close to your home:  please know that what I offer is not meant to make anyone feel bad about their own choices, but encourage thought and discussion.

1) I am not a car owner.  This is a big one.  I have never owned a car and I have zero desire to own a vehicle.  I am grateful that I have never found myself dependent upon the fossil fuel industry in this way.  I live urban and can live without a vehicle:  this is important to note.  That said, I ride my bike, walk or take transit and note the congestion of traffic on city streets as I do so.  As a cyclist, in particular, I find myself vulnerable for I have to cycle on busy city streets, replete with pot holes and storm grates and vehicles that sometimes think it's funny to play chicken with me.  I see all of this traffic and I wonder how much of it is truly necessary?  I live in an very well-to-do area:  I live amongst the rich, though I would not describe myself as such.  I see many in this area with bicycles strapped to their SUV's, ready for their weekend trips to the beauty of nature.  Despite this desire to connect with nature and the proclivity towards activity, they drive the 2 blocks to the grocery store, the 6 blocks to the school to pick up and drop off their kids, the 4 blocks to the community centre for their workout.  I find this fascinating; the incongruity of it all astounds me on many levels.  My neighbor works 4 blocks from her house and yet she drives there everyday.  She has a second job that is far enough that cycling and walking is out of the question, but it is a 40min trip on transit and the transit stop is one block from her workplace.  Instead she drives in rush hour traffic, which doesn't save her any time at all.  She needs the second job to pay for her car.  I have heard my car loving family members tell me that a car is freedom.  Is this true for my neighbor?  If she decided to give up her car, walk the 4 blocks to and from work and give up her second job, think of the extra time and money she would have for other activities.  Perhaps I am projecting, for the things that I have found truly valuable in life, such as hiring a personal trainer or going back to university or taking a trip to visit my family on the other side of the country, could only be achieved for me because I have never had to devote hundreds of dollars a month to paying for a car.  This has been a win-win for me.  If I take into account the fitness and activity that I have added into my every day due to the extra walking and cycling I do to get places, then we can add another "win" in there.  If I count all of the fossil fuel emissions saved over the course of my life, there is yet another "win".

2) I don't have kids.  Each living creature impacts the environment in a variety of ways.  I didn't choose not to have kids for the sole purpose of saving that environmental impact.  I've known since I was 11yrs old that I didn't want kids.  One happy byproduct, however is that I have saved the earth that impact.  One might posit that my (non-existent) kids might have been the innovators to save us all.  I suppose that is possible.  What I have seen in my family life (which feature a gaggle of kids courtesy of my brothers), is that while kids are wonderful and can be taught to be ecologically aware, they can also put a burden on a household in terms of time and financial resources that put the whole family in crisis mode that makes ecologically sound choices untenable.  Let's take my brother, for example, who lives in the U.S.A.  This is important to note because in the States, you have to live in a good school district lest your kids get their education from the school depicted in the movie "Dangerous Minds", or the TV show "The Wire".  So they moved to a small house in a ritzy area; an area that has good schools.  My brother and his wife both work in social services in areas that are only drive-able.  While there is bus service available in their city, it is not set up to be truly useable or accessible in the way that the transit service is in my urban area.  It would take them almost two hours to bus each way, and almost an hour to cycle each way.  It is a 35min drive for each of them and they drop their kids off at school and pick them up because the school bus routes are not well planned.  The year my nephew was in kindergarten he had to transfer school buses, with a 15min wait in between the two buses:  is it any wonder that they choose to drive their kids?  Due to fact that they live in the States, they also have things to pay for things like garbage pick-up (not provided by the municipality in their area) and (of course) health care, which costs them over a grand every month for their co-pay, despite the fact that my brother has a private insurance through his employer:  this is the affordable option, and is the base rate available to them.  As a comparison, I have a co-pay through my job which amounts to about $200 a year which gives me dental, prescription, optical, psychological counseling, chiropractic/physiotherapy/athletic therapy/massage therapy.  This is in large part due to the difference in social safety net provided by these two very disparate governments.  If my brother's family lived in Canada (which I still hope for), he would be able to live close to his workplace without having to worry about their kids getting a subpar education as the schools in Canada are much more stable in terms of the education delivered (though we have started to hear rumblings of this changing:  a good reason for each of us to keep our eyes peeled).  Their kids could take one school bus to school, or in high school take transit.  My brother and his wife could also take transit, ride a bike or walk and have less time devoted to commuting and more time available for the things they love to do, such as spending time together.  While commuting they could read a book (on transit), listen to music, or get some exercise in:  things which they don't have the time, money or energy for currently.  They also wouldn't have to pay over $12,000 a year, out of pocket, on basic health insurance.  That is money that they could divert to other things which means that they could quit the side hustles they both have in order to make ends meet; side hustles that require many more miles in their cars.  This is all to say that our core values surrounding the social safety net really do make a difference to the environment as well as people individually and families and. These advantages and benefits extend to families having more time to do things like recycle responsibly, hang their laundry (indoors or out) instead of using the dryer, garden, hunt through second hand stores as opposed to opting for fast fashion, learn how to sew and recycle garments (which also inspires ones' creativity). All of this in addition to needing to use their vehicles less, and maybe even make do with only one vehicle. 

3) I vote.  This may seem really silly, but I still believe in voting.  I would really have liked to see the electoral reform that the Liberals promised to us take effect. Since it has not, there is one more thing to question, ponder and fight for. I try to be as aware as possible about what is going on in the world.  I read a lot of articles and do so from a diverse set of sourcing (though I do have sources which resound with me more readily).  I read books.  Books are great because they have the benefit of exploring issues from a more complete set of facts.  I find that it's harder to slant a whole book (at least one that is effectively and correctly sourced), than it is a single news article.  I love discovering the historical content beneath the surface and seeing the same issue from a political perspective, a journalistic perspective, an artistic perspective as well as the perspective of the people living in the moment.  History does tend to repeat itself:  a fact which none of us can lose sight of in our current political climate.  The trends that have emerged in the past will emerge again unless and until we all start taking this idea of democracy seriously.  We all need to vote and we all need to understand who we are voting for and why we are voting for them.  We all need to look at what has happened historically to ensure that we understand whether or not what is being promised is possible, probable or completely unrealistic given what has happened in the past.  We need to understand how we are affected by the decisions made by our legislators and we need to understand who supports our legislators financially.  All of this is a huge part of working towards more environmentally sound policies.  We need to understand how the governments legislative decisions affect the protection of our ecologically important areas, our waterways, our ability to access services that help us live more eco-friendly lives (like strong transit, eco-friendly building practices and exploration of new and innovative ideas such as tiny house living, passive air exchange systems in homes and apartments, affordable and sustainable urban development such as planning for urban garden spaces and urban solar and wind generation that may help take some of the burden off of our electrical grid, encouraging farming practices that will allow us to keep our arable land healthy for generations to come, and so much more).  We need to be curious about how much effect the funders of our legislators have on these legislative decisions and we need to question whether or not they are having too much influence.  In short, we need to be informed beyond the sound bite of the day.

4) I'm serious about recycling.  This year is the year of getting rid of single use plastics.  I am still imperfect at this, but am trying.  I love the Bulk Barn and now take jars in instead of using the plastic bags provided.  I avoid plastic wrapped foods such as trays of sliced mushrooms and 4-packs of sweet peppers.  I buy single apples and oranges instead of bags.  It's tough, though.  I love Haloom cheese, but it comes wrapped in single use plastic.  I try to buy environmentally friendly hair care products, dish soap, and hand soap but who knows if these products are truly environmentally sound.  I do my best to research but there is not always a clear answer on whether or not a product is harmful over the long term.  So I try and then try again.

That's it for now, but I appreciate the opportunity to share!

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I have a car (which I love), I have a kid (whom I love), I don't routinely vote (I am opposed to the electoral college), and I don't recycle (because it is not available to me in the city I live in, although, the sight of Diesel-fueled trucks taking a second spin around the block to pick up blue bags has always been a bit of a head-scratcher) - that all being said, there was one thought that kept popping into my head while reading your post: good for you! And I mean that sincerely.

We may be diametrically opposed in regards to certain issues, but I appreciate your conviction and am happy that you feel like you are doing your part and that it is a source of pride for you.

Thanks for sharing; your post gave me something to think about, which is always a good thing!

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I agree with Williammunny11, good for you.  One of my biggest disagreements with environmental activism is around the "child" argument, however I'm not going to get into that because I just wanted to say as per William, good for you.  Do the best you can with what you have.  Take care.

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