Get rid of ripped jeans
Teach kids that ‘disposable’ is a bad word
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.