There are two types of people in the world... goes an old saw that has as many finishes as there are ways to categorize humans. Forgive me if a favourite is one I erected myself to describe my reductionist approach to parenting. Thinking on the friends I went to both elementary and high school with, I formulated this rejoinder: "... those who generally learn from their mistakes, and those who don't. The object of parenting is to make sure your child is one of the former."
Sure, there are other things you want to teach your kid, but any example you can name ultimately boils down to this. After all, we're adaptive beasts, our neural wiring set to test and experiment, and to draw conclusions from the results that will increase our chances of survival. When it comes to learning life lessons there's clearly a continuum, but let's stick with exploring these opposite poles.
The majority of us, parented to benefit from our foul-ups and dumb decisions, grew up to be reasonable and considered individuals, more likely to look at a bigger picture and think things through in given situations. As it turns out, self-directed survival lessons from negative outcomes also aid us in making better choices on the communal front, to understand our role in the human ecosystem, and to contribute to the greater good with our actions. While we may all have selfish genes, the value of altruism isn't lost on us. In contrast, kids I knew who couldn't stop making irreversible and catastrophic errors of judgment — either due to negative childhood experiences, or because there were no consequences, or maybe because they didn't need to (i.e., they were somehow, like Trump, protected from their own stupidity) — struggled mightily into adulthood, if they made it at all (sadly, many didn't). These folks couldn't contribute to any greater good because lurching from one problem to another locked them in constant, necessarily selfish survival mode. Thus put, there are peeps who care and will take the time to do the right thing, and those who neither care nor have time to. For sake of generalization let's label this dichotomy "conscious" and "unconscious" humans. There are many routes to these categories, but the sharpest denominator is parenting — good and bad.
Though I would never have claimed this before the past couple of years observing the actions of my fellow humans around Whistler, I had the fortune to grow up in the '60s, when consciousness was on the rise, and there was great impetus — the message hammered home through all media and in the classroom — to be more so. Thus, we rode bikes on the streets and signalled our intentions to drivers, were fastidious with campfires, and not only cleaned up litter and pollution where we found it, but were indoctrinated to cut it at its source. My friends would never have dared throw garbage out of a car, unwrap a chocolate bar on a trail and lose the wrapper, or leave a tent, lawn chair or beer bottles at a music festival. And if one of our group suffered a momentary lapse, they'd be mercilessly shamed. Growing up in Toronto I actually witnessed the streets and parks and waterways get cleaner and safer every year of my youth. That was my compass direction. What happened?
What Whistler has witnessed the past few years is nothing short of The Rise of The Unconscious Human, which must surely equate with the rise of bad parenting or personal desperation. I cannot fathom how someone can toss a cigarette butt on the street or trail let alone the reams of garbage now encountered in these places. It is so alien to my sensibilities as to still seem surreal. Yet it is with this regression we must contend.
As Alison Taylor wrote in the August 20 edition of Pique: "The resort's very raison d'etre is to cater to the whims and desires of more than 3 million guests every year, delivering the experience of a lifetime. They come, they stay, they spend, and then they're off down the highway again, taking their memories and leaving their garbage (often unsorted) behind."
I live this every day, from Starbucks to the library to home. My strata has a great waste shed with a large garbage container and three recycling bins clearly marked "paper," "containers," and "glass." In addition, both graphics and lists itemize what does and doesn't fall under these headings. It's straightforward — if you're a conscious human. Perhaps some visitors are so elsewhere, but here, in another environment, suddenly can't be bothered. Eschewing all ease-of-compliance offered, most open the shed and, if they've set recyclables aside at all, stuff them unsorted into the first bin within reach — regardless of its marking, contaminating everything. A note on the door stating cardboard recycling is in another place is ignored as the shed fills again and again with unflattened cardboard.
The RMOW's coming update to its solid waste bylaws will bring consequences to some of these "mistakes." Hopefully these will encourage more of the consciousness we all deserve.
Leslie Anthony is a Whistler-based author, editor, biologist and bon vivant who has never met a mountain he didn't like.