Go­ing to the mat­tresses

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

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.

Richard Ma­honey

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