Confessions of an Inured Earthling

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is INURED

Traveling through northern Ontario by train years ago, I’d get whiffs of the putrid sulfur fumes spewing from paper mills along Lake Superior. The joke in those places was, “You don’t need to put meat in your sandwiches. Just open your slices of bread and close them over that rich aroma.”

I felt sorry for the poor folks who lived and worked there. Wouldn’t it be great if these smog-belching, mercury-dumping factories were shut down? But then… Hold on here! I read books, magazines, catalogues. I use printer paper, paper towels, tissues, toilet paper… On second thought, keep on spewing, guys. (Try to contain the mercury, though.)

This morning I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee, which came from plantations in South America, harvested by laborers there and shipped here by boat. The beans are then roasted and packaged in Canadian factories – in foil packages made in other factories – then trucked to my local supermarket. I may grumble about pollution from factories, but this might seem hypocritical if I’m the one buying their products.

I spread my toast with margarine made from canola oil (once commonly known as rapeseed oil.) I know something about canola – it’s grown in the fields around us. In the spring our water pressure goes through some dips during seeding as our farmer neighbor fills his sprayer in preparation for seeding. Then he gets into his factory-made, fuel-consuming tractor and roars off to seed his grain.

To get good crops, and thus feed the world, farmers may use fertilizers, pre- and post-emergent herbicides, insecticides. In the case of canola, the use of desiccants at harvest is common. I like to wear cotton, but I understand cotton’s a heavily insecticide-sprayed crop. I am concerned about the effects of all these chemicals on our poor old Earth, but I also want to eat and wear clothes. And growers want to earn a living. So what’s the answer?

One day shortly after a power outage here, I was talking with a friend in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and we discussed how we’d ever survive without electricity. She assured we that we could if we had to – we just would. “But how?” I asked. She answered, “We’d just have to leave the city and go back to the land.” And I thought, You don’t know what you’re saying!

“Think of the hundreds of seniors in your apartment building alone,” I told her. “And the millions of people in your city. Our lives are built on having a reliable source of power. Heating, air-conditioning, traffic control, gas pumps, street lights, water purification and circulation, all depend on power. You just can’t move city dwellers back into the woods, have them build log cabins and expect they’ll survive.”

The fact is, without a fairly steady power supply millions of people across our country would die. Sorry about the pollution, but keep those hydro-electric generators running, churning out power.

When I read fellow blogger Judy D-B’s response to this prompt, mainly the lines about “…the factories smudging the skies with their waste…,” I had to admit my guilt. Paper mills, cotton mills, steel mills – I buy the products of these factories. I use planes that probably pollute the atmosphere. Why, if it were a free trip I might even like to check out one of those fuel-guzzling, pollution-generating behemoths a.k.a an ocean liner. (Just once.)

I can do without flyers, go totally to e-mail, cut back on my purchases. But at our age, I hope we never have to go back to a log cabin in the bush, use candles or kerosine lamps, pump water from a well, chop firewood, wrap up in lots of blankets in winter, hitch the horses to go to town, or use an outdoor biffy where autumn leaves serve as T.P. What about you? Are you willing to give up cell phones, travel, new clothes and paper products in order to save the environment?

Because we seem to really like the life we have now, I don’t see any end to growing practices or factories. (And I really don’t support shutting down factories here, putting our own people out of work because pollution controls are too costly, then buying from countries that produce cheap goods because they ignore pollution issues.)

I do want to be aware, to curb my hunger for “the latest” and not be wasteful. But I don’t see many options, so in the end I go with common sense and have probably inured myself somewhat to how the earth suffers for my sake. As the saying goes…

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

5 thoughts on “Confessions of an Inured Earthling

  1. A well written thought provoking post. Makes me feel a wee-bit hypocritical since I’m an advocate for saving the environment from all sorts of pollution, yet I contribute to funding the factories that produce this pollution. Funny enough, and just like you, I’d be hard-pressed to enjoy life if these factories were to be shut down…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think we’re all in favor of cutting down on pollution — in a general sense — just not eliminating the stuff we want to buy. I don’t know if there are quickie answers except to want less stuff (esp changeable fashions) and use what we have carefully.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You make some relevant observations, and I add my thoughts to yours. It might seem ideal to return to a simpler existence, but we are too many in this world, it is too late. A collapse of our systems would result in massive death toll as people fought for the few available resources.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. You’re right. In a lot of Canada we’d be hard-pressed to find non-farmland where people could actually live. Clearing yet more forests would be an ecological disaster. No working medical systems or diagnostics. (Though all hospitals have generating plants in case of power failure.)

      We lived through “the ice storm of the century” in Quebec, where folks were out of power for a week, some up to four weeks, while Quebec Hydro rushed to replace downed power lines, damaged pyilons, etc. Anyone who had a generator used it; dairy farmers bought generators from the States so they could continue milking.

      We were in a rural house and our basement started to filled with water because the pump wasn’t running. A farmer neighbour came every other day and hooked his tractor PTO to the pump so it ran. Any foods in fridges and freezers soon perished. Stores closed, much like now; some local stores let people in a few at a time and calculated purchases by hand because electronics were down. City folks without heat or water gathered in gyms and schools.

      Thankfully the temp stayed at freezing point. (Which caused the falling rain to freeze and the ice to form.) Had the power failed when it was -20, the death toll would have been higher.

      Maybe there are more things our govts can do — and are doing — like “scrubbers” on factory emissions. But they do make pollution control expensive — which is why so much of our stuff is coming from SE Asia now. But demanding the govt “do something” while we continue to buy from overseas seems like asking for the moon. And wanting our govts to pressure overseas govts to curb their pollution? Well, of course they will. Sometime. Ha ha.

      Liked by 1 person

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