COLUMN: The ‘D-word’ is most obscene to environmentalists

A kerfuffle is raised every time a comedian, politician, or businessperson uses the F-word or the N-word. I understand that.

A kerfuffle is raised every time a comedian, politician, or businessperson uses the F-word or the N-word. I understand that.

But to me, the D-word is the most obscene. I’m referring to disposable. Let me explain.

When I was a boy, we were poor and it was a big deal when my parents bought me a new coat. I would quickly outgrow it, and it would be passed on to my sister. My parents boasted that three of their children had worn the same coat.

They weren’t concerned (nor were we kids) about gender differences or fashion; it was the coat’s ability to keep the wearer warm and its durability (now there’s a good D-word) that mattered.

We now have an economic system in which companies must not only show a profit each year, they must strive for constant growth.

If a product is rugged and durable, it creates a problem for even the most successful business – a diminishing and eventually saturated market. Of course, any product will eventually wear to a point where it can no longer be patched, so the market will continue to exist to replace worn products.

But that’s not good enough in a competitive world driven by the demand for relentless growth in profits and profitability.

So companies create an aura of obsolescence, where today’s product looks like a piece of junk when next year’s model comes out. We’ve lived with that for decades in the auto industry.

I’ve always said a car is simply a means of getting from point A to point B, but it’s become far more than that.

Some cars convey a sense of power, and cars become safe havens when loaded with cup holders, sound systems, and even TVs and computers. Some people even name their cars, talk to them, and care for them like babies – until next year’s models come along.

It’s similar with clothing, even with outdoor attire beloved by environmentalists. We have a proliferation of choice based on colour, sexiness, and other properties that have nothing to do with function.

I don’t understand torn blue jeans as a fashion statement, and I wish people would wear their pants till they spring their own leaks rather than deliberately incorporating tears.

All of this is designed to get us to toss stuff away as quickly as possible so the economy can keep spinning.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with electronic gadgets.

When my wife lost the cord to charge her cellphone, she went to seven stores. None had the necessary plug for her phone. Finally she went back to the retailer that sold her brand only to be told that the cords for the new models don’t fit the old ones and hers was so old, it wasn’t even on the market any more. It was a year-and-a-half old.

I remember when I was given the first laptop computer on the market. It had an LED display screen that let me see three lines at a time and a chip that stored about three pages of writing. But it was small and had word processing and a port to send my pieces by telephone. It revolutionized my life.

I was writing a weekly column for the Globe and Mail and was able to send articles from Russia and even remote towns in the Amazon.

A couple of years later, a much better laptop hit the market. It had an LCD screen, a huge memory, and it displayed almost a full page. I got one. A year later, I got a new model, and then half a year after that, another.

Each served me well, but every year, new ones would appear that were faster, smaller, and lighter, with longer-life batteries and more bells and whistles.

Try to get one fixed or upgraded, though. As with digital cameras, I was repeatedly told it would cost more to fix an old laptop than to buy a new model. This is madness in a finite world with finite resources. At the very least, products should be created so components can be pulled apart and reused.

You see why I think the D-word is obscene.

www.davidsuzuki.org

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who rammed a police car to escape an arrest attempt. (File photo)
Drug trafficking suspect rams police vehicle in Nanaimo and escapes arrest

Suspect still at large after fleeing from police in Harewood on Friday afternoon

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer, immunizes Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s vice-president of pandemic planning. (Submitted photo)
Island Health advising people to get a flu shot

People looking to get vaccinated should book an appointment, says Island Health

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Second hospital long overdue

Tertiary model would be best served by a completely new design, says letter writer

Artist’s rendering of a townhouse development approved for the south end of Ninth Street. (Straight Street Design image)
Townhouse development on Ninth Street gets nod from Nanaimo city council

Development permit issued for 47-unit project near Parkway Trail

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Freighter drags anchor towards Boulder Point Oct. 22. It came within 730 metres of the shore, according to maps from the Port of Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the South Coast

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Harvesters participating in the extended commercial halibut season will need to land their catch in either Prince Rupert (pictured), Vancouver, or Port Hardy by Dec. 14. (File photo)
B.C.’s commercial halibut season extended three weeks

COVID-19 market disruptions at the root of DFO’s decision

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

Most Read