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OH YOU NAUGHTY CANADIANS: MY RESPONSE

Are you ready for a little scolding, a bit of “tunin’ in”? Well, ready or not, here it comes:

“Canada throws away more garbage per capita than any other country in the developed world”, says the Conference Board of Canada website. It scolds us for using more energy and water than most countries. It gives us the second lowest rating of 17 countries for environmental performance. Numerous other websites as well want to take us to the woodshed for overly high consumption, high spending,  throwaway  habits and general wastefulness. 

There now, feeling guilty? Hanging your head in shame? Well, wait: before you do that, let’s look at some of those bad-boy accusations:

Over consumption? Indeed we are big spenders. The standard of living of the average household today compared with that of my childhood (back when dinosaurs roamed) and early adulthood is astonishing. A few examples:

The houses we aspired to back in the 1950s and ‘60s were, I would guess, less than half the size most prospective homeowners  are looking for now. And those large houses do consume far more use of power, water and heating fuel. Inside them and in their yards are massive collections of entertainment devices, electronic appliances, furniture, yard equipment, vehicles, children’s toys, adult toys and more. Things  I and others of my age six decades ago could only dream of. Symptoms of greed and status-seeking? Or deserved rewards for hard work? Your call.

This summer Esther and I took two camping trips, onr to Anglin Lake, one to Narrow Hills. And,  as always in recent years, I looked around the campgrounds in amazement at the monstrous size of so many motor homes and pull-type campers. Some of them you could  hold a rock concert in--well, a church service at least. I’ll see very few tents or tent trailers, which were in the majority when I started camping in the 1970s. Symbols of a healthier economy, greater expectations or rapidly rising consumer debt?

As for waste, yes, that’s a problem. A visit to a landfill reveals amazing amounts of furniture, household appliances and yard equipment that appear to be still useable.  People now seem to throw away things--fridges, stoves, TVs, spouses, partners--sooner, and with less attempt at repair, than ever before. And waste of food, paper, clothing, water and energy is too irresponsible to tolerate when you consider the costs of  producing and distributing them.

Conserving energy, however, presents a serious problem. Now I am not a denier of climate change or the danger of greenhouse gases. They must be dealt with. But I become a little cranky when spokespersons from warmer and small, densely populated countries denounce Canada as a heavier user of energy. Consider: In Britain most people live a few blocks from every need and desire: shopping,  theatre, sporting events, hospitals, clinics, dental services, government agencies and much more. In  Canada, with its widely scattered cities, small town and rural areas, we must often travel many miles and hours to reach those services. And transporting people, food, raw materials and finished goods across a country almost exactly the same total size (3.9 million square miles) of all Europe, with its 50 sovereign nations, is an enormous undertaking. Yet people worldwide desire and acquire the products of Canadian farms, forests and mines, all of which require fuel-consuming equipment to produce.

And no European country, except possibly Iceland, has anywhere near the per capita need of Canada for heating fuel.

In an earlier column  I suggested that many environmentalists would be happy if all Canadians were forcefully removed to other countries and every structure in Canada was bulldozed down. The country could be totally erased from the planet and used only as a tourist attraction to remind the world of the Bad Old Days of energy  consumption. Great idea, eh?


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Wednesday November 17, 2021