Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle
I heard an interesting item on the news the other day. The whole ‘Selfie Structure” thing, has been a real success. In Toronto they have that big T-O-R-O-N-T-O sign in Nathan Philip’s Square by the city hall. People come by there just to take the selfie’s, such to the point that they have worn out those big letters and they have to order a new batch.
There was a question what to do with the old letters. Huge letters are a bit of an odd item with questionable utility and real storage issues attached.
There was a solution waiting for the problem. The City of ORONO has volunteered to recycle the sign as a local tourist attraction, well, all except for the two “T’s” they can’t use. I may request those for my own front yard because they are my own initials.
Reduce, re-use, recycle. That is a popular current mantra. When I was a kid, that was just what you called being poor - having to inherit your brother’s old hand-me-down clothes because your parents were too cheap to go out and buy you a new set for school in the fall. All of that has changed now. Re-using old stuff has become chic. My daughters have discovered that they can come back with a whole lot of clothes shopping from the Goodwill, and even brag to their friends about the bargains they got. They now call it retro.
My wife has even got a bee in her bonnet that we should be checking out the Re-Store, the one run by Habitat for Humanity. They recycle a lot of good stuff, if you are handy and know how to install fixtures in your home. She especially likes all that mid-century modern furniture, the kind that you have to refinish to get rid of the scratches. It reminds me of the old cast-off furniture your parents wanted to dump on you when you moved away from home... maybe because it is. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, I guess. There are some people who will never eat leftovers out of principle, and there are those who consider it practical to make a big meal, and save some off for tomorrow’s lunch.
You can figure out the two kinds of people, when a new iPhone comes out. Frugal people, vs fad people. There are those who use the old stuff forever, as long as it will still work. And then there are those who just have to have something, only because it is new. They don’t even care about what they are going to do with the old item. Chances are they will toss it, because they don’t see much value in utility. New is the thing. New is good.
What to do with old stuff you want to get rid of can also be a problem, especially plastics. Plastic is a great material, because it doesn’t rot. It is also a horrible material for the same reason, it doesn’t rot. There are issues with plastics in our oceans, apparently, messing with the eco system. They are called ‘floaters’ and they can cluster together. We have some of them floating around in huge clumps in Lake Ontario, veritable garbage islands. They will just float around forever, because they don’t rot.
With all the current emphasis on being ‘Green’, personal choices have come under the spotlight. Our current Prime Minister made a public policy choice about single-use plastics that made some waves. It was intended as classic virtue-signalling, the kind our PM loves, heavy on symbol, and onus on what someone ELSE does, complete with unctuous dulcet tones to his voice and a bit of tut-tut scolding. But then, a reporter asked him what he personally was doing at home to support the kind of consumer choices he was promoting as policy. You know, walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
Here is his response. I will quote it verbatim because it only vaguely resembles English.
“We…uh…uh…we have recently switched to drinking water bottles out of…water out of when we have uh bottles out of uh plastic, sorry, away from plastic towards uh paper — like drinky box water bottles sort of thingys...”
What became instantly clear, is that we were getting preached at, by someone who does not live by what he preaches. Surprise, surprise. Public figures who regale us with moralistic advice, are on the rise. Their lifestyles do not often fit what they promote. Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swede who lectures government figures world-wide has come under the spotlight because she preaches climate change disaster, but is making a carbon footprint most people could only dream about in a lifetime of wanton waste. Politicians can get excited, because they have discovered a whole new list of things to tax, when they invade the territory of your personal life.
In the end it becomes an imbalance in society, those who must practise and those who get to preach. The ones preaching apparently are immune to their own advice, and there is something deeply wrong with this dichotemy. A basic picture of fairness, is where the rules apply equally to all. Otherwise there is a limit on the traction you are likely to get when you tell other people what to do.
In the end there are two types of people, frugal and fad driven. I won’t easily be buffaloed by fad myself, but neither do I like to be scolded like a schoolboy. In life, the very definition of freedom comes down to the fact that who we are is defined by our personal choices. Libertarianism is that small “c” conservative civic virtue, the idea that we have the freedom to self-regulate. There can be something good in all this, politicians take note. If you are not free to choose, then you are no longer really free.
Think about it. Another way to phrase that might be “Either put up, or shut up”, and “put up” seems pretty unlikely at this point.