Opinion » Maxed Out

The sustainable slump



After an afternoon of painstaking research, a pallid attempt at meditation interrupted by the incessant pull of gravity on my eyelids, some enlightened conversations and what I believe is known scientifically as a wildass guess, I believe I have the answer to the burning question we've all been asking.

"What question is that?" I hear you mutter.

The question is: What exactly is standing in the way of our truly reaching sustainability nirvana?

It's clearly not our lack of planning. We have The Plan; have had for nearly a decade. If it were only a matter of planning, we'd have been sustainable so long ago people would be scratching their heads wondering why we hadn't vanished entirely by now.

It is, likewise, clearly not our lack of desire. Who wants to be sustainable more than we do? That's a rhetorical question.

It's clearly not lack of political leadership, proving once again I can say something nice about the folks at muni hall.

It's Canadian Tire.

Canadian Tire is keeping us from becoming truly sustainable.

I know. Taking on a Canadian icon that generally ranks close in popularity behind Tim Hortons and beavers and laying our sustainable woes at its corporate door is a tough pill to swallow. And it's not as though Canadian Tire stands alone in preventing us from reaching sustainability. It's just that they're so good at it. They make it easy to be unsustainable. Hell, with approved credit, they'll even put it on a pay-as-you-backslide plan.

Possibly the biggest stumbling block to livin' the sustainable life is the simple fact that the base of consumption — the Coefficient of Stuff — from which we're trying to sustain ourselves is already out of proportion to what is truly sustainable. Had we started this whole Quest for Sustainability half a century ago, we mighta had a much better shot at it.

The sad fact is, we're livin' life big. Big and unsustainable. We're rapacious, greedy, slovenly convenience and pleasure junkies. To be blunt about it, the only way we can sustain what we've already come to consider "normal" is to nuke the Third World so they stop progressing toward the Good Life in our wake, steal the rest of the world's oil and flip on over to a rerun of Survivor: Paris Sewer Challenge while we salve what's left of our conscience with a cold one filched from the fridge in the base of our Barcalounger while the ersatz electric 'fireplace' warms us from the corner.

Consider just a few of life's necessary conveniences on offer from Canadian Tire's Summer of Power catalogue.

It wasn't that many years ago that, if we wanted to sit outside on a nice summer evening, we splashed on some Bugoff or, if we were cutting-edge natural, embraced scratching the inevitable mosquito bite as low-grade aerobic activity. Now, we plug in or suck up. No risk — of West Nile virus or Zika — is too infinitesimal to justify dragging out the arsenal of mosquito vacuums, foggers and bug zappers. Electric or propane powered, they hum reassuringly as they attract and then suck up any mozzies flying within our own green acre.

Of course if the weather's a bit too nippy to worry about mosquitoes, or for that matter, the nine months of the year mosquitoes are only a problem in tropical climes, we can still put that tank of propane to good use. Whether we go for the tabletop model or the full-blown bar patio version, no patio is complete without its own space heater to ward off the chill while we quaff an ice cold brewski.

After all, we deserve it. Didn't we work hard all day pointing our 4,500-psi power washer at dirt and grime we, not too long ago, grabbed rags and brushes to clean, assuming we cleaned it at all? What garage can be said to be complete without one?

That assumes, of course, there's room in the garage once we've parked our 2.5-horsepower, eight-gallon air compressor in there to... well, compress air. I mean, something has to drive the air tools we use to keep from actually applying any torque with our own muscles. If you don't blow, you suck.

Being big and unwieldy, we have other, smaller air compressors that are kept plugged into the wall and constantly charged so we don't have to use our breath and get a cheap high blowing up the kid's wading pool, floaty toys, bicycle tires and airhead Barbies. C'mon, if I wanted to huff and puff I'd be out marathoning. We could probably do without these mini-compressors if everything we own that holds air was conscientious enough to come with its own built-in AC pump. Like the one in the air beds we have in case guests drop by or we just want to lie in the sun without getting grass all over ourselves.

Over in the Building Loyal Customers for the Future aisle, there are some pretty nifty starter energyhog toys. For obese children and adults who can't really be bothered to swim under their own power, there's a very cool, James Bondy device that pulls you through the water while you just hold on. It runs on batteries. So does the mini-jetski, in case you don't want to get fully submerged. It doesn't go as fast as the obnoxious gas-powered ones but heck, a guy's gotta start somewhere.

And if the water's too cold — too wet? — there are the little electric motorcycles, dirtbikes and scooters to zip around on until you get big enough for your own quad. Be patient. Those couple of extra hundred pounds you need to really enjoy an ATV will pack themselves on in no time.

All these things — and so many more — are considered just normal, regular, good ol' consumer goods. They epitomize the good, if not the sustainable, life. And they are quickly becoming commonplace and forming the new "base" from which any sustainable initiative will be launched.

And the totally bizarre thing is, I'll be considered a crank for just suggesting there's something fundamentally wrong with these mindless, power-swillin' diversions. Our political leaders won't talk about reining in this rush to excess, not when they can make us feel righteous about just changing over to compact fluorescent bulbs. Don't hold your breath waiting for any of them to speak against it.