We don’t need masses of ‘stuff’

Christmas is in the rearview mirror; just about out of sight now.
Last week I was packing up and heading home from Vancouver—from a city that boasts about its moderate temperatures and claims winter doesn’t happen.
I was seriously misled. The sidewalks were covered in thick ice, with ruts and bumps that make walking treacherous for those unsteady on their feet or while pushing a stroller or trying to get around in a wheelchair.
Not easy—and made even more difficult because it is an unusual situation and the city isn’t prepared for such things; doesn’t budget for the need to ensure its citizens are safe.
Perhaps budgeting for such things is impossible on this scale when you consider the other infrastructure required to transverse rivers with huge bridges and keep traffic flowing in such a large city.
As I scrambled to pack my suitcase with the “stuff” I thought necessary to cart around with me, I thought about the icy sidewalks that exist in my head; my poorly thought-out participation in the waste that is rampant at Christmas (and, more accurately, rampant every day of the year).
I just read an essay by George Monbiot. I wasn’t familiar with his work—and confessing such may incline you to think I am poorly-informed on many fronts (you may be right).
There’s not space here to discuss his politics or his life for that matter, but suffice to say he has been busy challenging the status quo for most of his life, with sometimes dangerous results and with personal injury. He hasn’t let that stop him.
Monbiot speaks about “pathological consumption” in a 2012 article published in The Guardian entitled “The Gift of Death.” His language and tone is very much the words of an academic, and I sometimes got lost in the speech, but the message is clear: challenging us to rethink our purchasing decisions; to back away from those items we think will make Christmas surprises or will create a giggle at the expense of our resources.
Many of the products we buy end up in landfill shortly after the gift-giving season, not because they became obsolete but because we are “screwing the planet” to make products that have no utility in the first place.
As I looked around at the startling inventory of toys my grandson is endowed with, I can’t help but wince. There are more toys than a herd of toddlers can play with and I watched him play for several hours the previous evening with a pair of pliers.
I am convinced none of us need such masses of “stuff.”
There are libraries in place in many Canadian communities for the sharing of toys, for the sharing of tools, for the sharing of cooking appliances, for the sharing of automobiles—and that initiative alone helps reduce the number of products required that are seldom used.
There are many good ideas out there that many of us haven’t even considered or are not aware of.
Maybe 2017 will be the year where I put my concerns into action and cease my private wincing. I can only hope.
wendistewart@live.ca

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