Environmentalists not wrong because people buy big trucks

Mill Bay – In a letter dated Jan. 23, 2015, Glenn White states, “Environmentalists [are] out of step with majority of people”. He chooses to illustrate his point partly by discussing the fact many people drive excessively big, “gas-guzzling” vehicles. He also mentions many Islanders still use heating oil for keeping warm. According to Glenn, oil is here to stay so you might as well stop bleating about it: my words.

All of this is true but it doesn’t mean environmentalists are putting out the wrong message. They may be out of step with the majority but only because the majority is turning a blind eye to what the future is likely to bring, if not for them, for their children. There are plenty of instances in history where a small dissenting minority eventually persuaded a larger community that their world-view was the right one.

As for environmentalists offering “no solutions merely lots of nice Pollyanna sayings”[sic], just as an example, people like Peter Nix – one of the Valley’s most vocal environmentalists – do actually walk their talk. Mr. Nix is involved in recycling cooking oil into biodiesel, a more environmental choice for getting around. He is also getting into solar power. I wish I could follow his example but my finances don’t allow me to do so now.

Still, being a closet environmentalist myself, I practice measures I can achieve, believing every effort, no matter how small, makes a difference. When I have the time, I walk to the store and back, a round-trip of a little over an hour. Sometimes it means lugging back roughly 10kg (22lbs) of groceries but I view it as exercise, my version of strength training. I make as much food from scratch as I can: most meals, bread, yogurt, keffir, brine pickles, kombucha, sauerkraut, salad dressings and preserves. I can avoid consuming more plastics by making these things myself. if I don’t buy food in plastic containers it means quite a lot of incremental savings in the production, shipping and recycling costs embedded in plastics.

I obviously use glass containers, stainless steel and other non-plastic vessels where I can, if only because they last longer. I take my reusable bags to the store, along with cloth and paper bags that I reuse for my produce and bulk purchases.

I also make my own tooth cleaning powder, shampoo and deodorant. It all works just as well, or better, then the stuff from the store and I use ingredients I buy for other cleaning or for eating. More packaging I’ve cut out of my life. I buy the simplest constructed toothbrush so when it’s done, I break off the bristle head and recycle the stem.

In fact, I recycle everything I can, meticulously washing out cans, plastic bags, bottles, etc. My husband thinks I’m nuts. Recently I’ve even figured out how to disembowel those plastic pads you find under store-bought packages of meat: I’m currently testing whether some of the inner components will break down in my compost and whether I can put what’s left in the film recycling which I now have to separate from my blue bin. I will have the results of my experiments in a few months and interested parties are welcome to contact me for the details. By the way, I do not buy potato chips anymore because the packaging cannot be recycled. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a campaign on that but chips aren’t really healthy anyway.

One last thing, I now recycle my own urine as fertilizer, so as not to waste potable water flushing it and so it doesn’t pollute the water table (we’re on septic) with it’s nitrogen content. Plus it’s entirely free: free of gas expenditures and all the added costs of buying pre-made fertilizer. I use it as well for breaking down cardboard boxes into fertilizer. That keeps my cardboard out of the recycling stream.

I could go on about making choices regarding when and what you buy in clothing, household goods, selfcare items, homes, personal comfort, cars; there are more sustainable alternatives for everything. There are even more sustainable options for taking care of one’s health, which might mean dispensing with the need for most of those little plastic containers of medications. But that’s a whole other issue.

Back to the question of the cars people drive. In the last decade, the B.C. government brought in a fee, which you pay every time you buy small electronics and which is supposed to offset the end-of-life disposal costs of those items. How about we lobby the government to institute a similar scheme for cars? If it’s tied to weight or gas consumption you’ll soon see people rethinking their options.

The government should also allow, at the least, used cars to be resold without taxes – we need to send a message to car makers to produce vehicles which don’t wear out as fast or are more easily and cheaply fixable. Seeing all those old Mercs, Volvos and even North American cars still driving around tells you it’s doable.

Just because something is the status quo, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge it, in big ways like Nix or Suzuki, or little ones in our own households. Our planet is changing, it seems largely thanks to our way of living. If we stop using oil, the people working in the oil patch need to find other ways of earning a wage.

But, how about those working at Mt. Washington up Island? When there’s no snow up there the impact on workers’ lives is just as bad. Same for our fishermen who are seeing dwindling stocks and a growing problem of diseases in wild fish due to various changes in ocean waters.

Yes, we do live in the now, but it should be a now looking ahead, not behind.

Liz Newton

Mill Bay

Cowichan Valley Citizen