Get rid of ripped jeans

Teach kids that ‘dis­pos­able’ is a bad word

Richmond Hill Post - - Currents -

My par­ents mar­ried dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. After the 1929 mar­ket col­lapse, peo­ple had to learn to make do, help each other out and live on mea­gre in­comes. Those times were seared into my par­ents’ at­ti­tudes and val­ues.

Although we were all born and raised in Canada, my fam­ily was seen as the en­emy dur­ing the Se­cond World War. When the war ended, we were shipped to On­tario where my par­ents worked as farm labour­ers. Win­ters were cold, and I needed a coat, which they bought with their lim­ited re­sources. I was in a growth spurt and quickly out­grew it, so they passed it on to my twin sis­ter. Half a year later, she had out­grown it, so our younger sis­ter in­her­ited it. For years, my par­ents boasted, “This coat was so well­made, it lasted through three chil­dren!”

Dura­bil­ity was a prized at­tribute of cloth­ing and other prod­ucts. What’s hap­pened since?

War pulled the North Amer­i­can econ­omy out of the dol­drums, but politi­cians wor­ried about how to tran­si­tion a war econ­omy to peace­time. The an­swer was con­sump­tion. To­day, 70 per cent of the Amer­i­can econ­omy is based on con­sumer goods.

Ev­ery­thing we con­sume comes from the Earth and goes back to it. Our home is the bio­sphere, the zone of air, water and land where all life ex­ists. Many “re­sources” we ex­ploit — air, water, soil, trees, fish — cleanse and re­plen­ish them­selves. If we use them care­fully, we can live in bal­ance. But ex­plo­sive growth in pop­u­la­tion, con­sump­tion and the econ­omy re­sults in over­ex­ploita­tion and de­struc­tion, un­der­min­ing the planet’s life­sup­port sys­tems.

In a time of en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis, the most ob­scene word in our lan­guage is “dis­pos­able.” Dis­pos­abil­ity im­plies that some­thing we’ve fin­ished us­ing dis­ap­pears. In the bio­sphere, noth­ing goes away or dis­ap­pears. Ev­ery­thing ends up some­where.

Cloth­ing is some­thing we wear to cover up and keep us warm in cold weather and cool in hot. But ap­peal­ing to peo­ple’s thirst for nov­elty cloth­ing epit­o­mizes dis­pos­abil­ity. Few things flaunt dis­re­gard for the en­vi­ron­ment more than proudly wear­ing pre-ripped jeans cost­ing hun­dreds of dol­lars. Those jeans are a trib­ute to the need to push un­nec­es­sary prod­uct onto eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated con­sumers.

The planet is over­run with an in­sa­tiable preda­tor, hu­mankind. As we run out of places to dump our waste, cities are re­duc­ing waste by ban­ning dis­pos­ables such as plas­tic dish­ware, cut­lery and bags. This is a first step to­ward re-ex­am­in­ing our un­sus­tain­able ways and go­ing back to val­ues of fru­gal­ity and our place on Earth. Let’s start by teach­ing our chil­dren that “dis­pos­able” is a bad word.

Ap­peal­ing to peo­ple’s thirst for trendy fast fash­ion epit­o­mizes dis­pos­abil­ity

DAVID SUZUKI David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Na­ture of Things and author of more than 30 books on ecol­ogy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.