Going to the mattresses
Along country roads, despite the snow, ice and freezing rain, the land is slowly coming to life. Scoping out potential breeding areas, territorial red-wing black birds scold human pedestrians. Gravel roads heave. Tile drain outlets gurgle. Shrubs are poised to burst into bloom. Thousands of geese are floating, soaring, eating, honking, creating a multi-level sound track that ranges from a soft and muted background melody to a jarring crescendo that signals lift-off as wings break the air because those pesky humans have come too close for comfort. The scent of wet soil and thawing manure can be detected in the air.
The bawling of new-born and so cute calves is a happy call signifying renewal and hope.
The cries of hockey pool losers can at times be heard as the best season of all -- the Stanley Cup playoffs -- begins. Breezes carry the bleats of baby lambs and over-taxed taxpayers. At the same time, ditches and shoulders reveal the remains of winter activity that until now had gone undetected.
One is compelled to wonder what stories are behind these pieces of flotsam.
On some concessions, a person can encounter a lost mattress that somehow fell off the back of a vehicle, onto a very flat, bump-free and straight road surface. The mishap has no doubt caused consternation for the owner of the mattress, who probably spent all these cold months, losing sleep, tossing and turning on a hard surface, wondering whatever happened to the box spring.
Transporting furniture is apparently very problematic for some people, because another country lane affords the chance to see a wayward couch, nestled near a culvert where a metal can jauntily bobs up and down, glinting in the sun like a hub cap that has turned up on a curb.
Inevitably, strolls in the country will provide the opportunity to gaze upon a tire and garbage bags.
And, of course, there is the usual assortment of food and beverage containers. What really happened here? The litter could be interpreted as proof that many people are hooked on cheap caffeine and fast food. But the discards could also be cries for help, anonymously issued by weak junk food junkies who are desperately attempting to dispose evidence of their salt and fat addictions, before they get home and are forced to dive into a plate of fair-trade mashed yeast.
For rural folks, one of the many seasonal rites of spring is the walk of trashy discovery, the first outing of the season to size up what junk has landed on their part of the world over the course of the winter.
Just as people are taken aback by the first snowfall, rurals are always surprised by the volume of trash people toss out on country routes. And the situation will likely get worse before it gets any better. Fortunately, the answers are in our hands. The bad news is that North Glengarry has a waste management problem because it can no longer ship off a huge chunk of recyclable materials to China.
The good news is that council members are insisting this dilemma will not be an issue in the fall election.
This is an inconsistent stance, because municipalities are constantly whining about their gradual loss of autonomy, and claiming that local government knows best, etc., etc. If they were consistent, municipal politicians would proclaim that they alone can resolve garbage disposal troubles.
But in this case, the consensus is that the provincial and federal governments must come to the aid of the municipal recycling program.
This about-face is not an abdication of responsibility; it is an acceptance of reality and hard, stinky facts.
The huge waste management file is far too important to be left in the hands of politicians, who, in order to win votes and appease the masses, are compelled to make popular, not necessarily sound, decisions.
Besides, there is no quick and easy answer to the overflow at the North Glengarry recycling centre, which has been forced to land-fill huge quantities of plastics.
Municipalities are obviously part of the answer. Services can be made more efficient.
But we all know that if the flow of trash is to be stemmed even a little, we must clean up our acts, in so many ways. We do not need to be reminded of this fact, let alone by a politician. If a candidate tried to suggest our wasteful habits require adjustments, the impulse would be to resist and complain that we already have enough regulations in our nanny state, and declare that we are personally offended by such pretension on the part of strangers who do not fully comprehend who we really are.
In this instant feedback world, dominated by the unsocial media, every utterance is fraught with potential blow-back and everyone can be subjected to quick and brutal attack. It’s open season on anyone with an idea, regardless of the notion’s merits.
Thus, if we are to effect concrete and long-lasting change, we must go offline and quietly and sanely discuss solutions among ourselves.
If we devise the solutions by ourselves, in an “organic” fashion -- without consultants, bylaws, talking points, hidden or obvious political agendas -- we are more likely to follow through with them than if these remedies were imposed upon us.
A starting point is to up our recycling game, so to speak, by intensifying efforts to reduce our consumption of one-use packaging and re-use whatever we can.
Preaching does not work. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Besides, when you get on a high horse, it is difficult to make ground-level improvements.
Therefore, we must fight the urge to engage in garbage bag shaming, and not glare at the few people who still do not use cotton grocery bags. We must remain positive and block out the naysayers. Opportunities abound, if we step back and assess the picture for a different perspective.
For example, Jim Purdie, of Toronto, in an April 4 letter to The News recommended an Alexandria de-plasticization pilot project, where institutions would replace plastic bottles with aluminum water bottles that could be used, sterilized and refilled. This transition could be carried out by a private business, he allowed.
A new local venture that would help save the planet? Hey, anything can happen.
One key to making our world greener is forcing the big plastic producers to become more accountable and more responsible.
The growing local and organic food movements demonstrate that consumers have power. Money talks; profits speak louder than platitudes. Support environmentally-friendly businesses.
At the same time we must rethink what we consider to be trash and review our buying tendencies.
Sure, attitudes must change, and there is some effort required, but what else are you doing between the second and third periods of the hockey game?
Sadly, there will always be some people who will believe that “out of sight, out of mind” is a great way to deal with trash, particularly when nobody can see them dump a sofa on a quiet country lane.