Politicians let me down again

Posted on April 13, 2009

With a name for this article like 'politicians let me down again' this may be an ongoing series, but yes, they have let me down again.  Now, I know it's tough for politicians, because they're not typically scientists or environmentalists, they're bureaucrats, and yet their job is to legislate over science and the environment.  That's exactly why I'm going to hold their feet to the fire, and why everyone else should too.  And honestly, politicans get an easy ride.  Sure, we all criticize them, but for every person like me attempting to hold them to a higher standard (in my case, by writing articles on a site they'll probably never read, sigh), there's about ten people who just don't care or follow what they do.  So for the most part, they're far too free to make decisions that may or may not lack the common sense from which a decision should be made.  The latest bone headed decision from Calgary's city council is seemingly minor, yet to me, that makes it all the more significant.  The unnecessary dependency on bottled water has reared it's ugly head again.

I think there's only one rule in our world that is truly a rule without any exceptions, and it is that rules always have exceptions.  Um, except that one.  For all the politicians who avoid doing anything positive for the environment, there are always exceptions willing to make changes to set a positive example.  Alderman Joe Ceci is a fine example of someone willing to make a positive example, such as leading garbage clean ups in our city or being a constantly open and active member of City Hall.

Joe Ceci, like a lot of people these days, recognizes that bottled water is unnecessary in a city like Calgary with public access to high quality clean drinking water, and unsustainable in a world like ours where we need to lessen the strain of packaging, transportation and consumption on our environment.  He's also willing to make the change to bring a reusable water bottle with him or use public fountains.  And why not?  It's just about the easiest change any one of us could make.

Hmm, which one to buy? The one on the left is $2.50 and will last me about 15 minutes. The one of the right is about $15 (though most reusable bottles are far cheaper) and will last me years, not to mention it looks kick ass.

Well, at least I thought it was the easiest change we could make, since it saves money and time over buying additional water bottles each day, but apparently I was wrong.  Joe Ceci proposed the idea of no longer selling bottled water on municipal property such as city hall, an idea many other municipalities have implemented or considering.  The idea is largely symbolic, but a step in the right direction for the city, however the idea was shutdown, and equally as symbolic. Alderman Ric McIver had this to say:

If we pick on water, we're saying perhaps we'd rather have you drink sugar-based drinks

Apparently many of our Aldermen are so used to buying bottled water that they no longer remember a way to get drinking water without it. Here's another interesting bit of logic, this time from Alderman Jim Stevenson:

What are we going to do next, make everybody drink beer with a straw from a keg so we can save those bottles?

Ah, the "I'm not going to make this easy change because then people might propose completely unrelated changes" argument. Allow me to take you back to my childhood if you will: When I was a kid, I used to look up to a lot of adults in adult-like positions thinking that they were smart, responsible and deserved my respect because of the position they had attained. As I continued to deal with adults outside of the classroom and became an adult myself (still a scary thought), I realized I had it completely wrong. I would deal with someone twice my age, someone I would have respected when I was a child, and realize I had twice their common sense. My view of the world changed forever. What does this world view have to do with anything? Well, before I might have respected Mr. Stevensons comments, because he's an Alderman and I'm not, but now I just think he can't be bothered to make positive changes for the environment. That and I guess he has some irrational fear of a future where he is forced to drink beer from a straw (That was his point right?).  Again, I'm not sure what that has to do with bringing a reusable bottle to work instead of buying bottled water, but what do I know, I'm not an Alderman.  Mr. Stevenson does make a suggestion though:

A better option is education, that we increase the amount of recycling of these bottles.

Well, he's right, I can never argue against more education, as it's always a good thing, so I'll try my best at a little education:


Recycling isn't the answer

I hate to say this but recycling isn't the answer to our problems - it's still awesome, but it is the weakest of the 3 R's, here's why:

So the stickmen give away the fact I've probably oversimplified things, but here's the argument: To reduce is great, because there's less of our resources being used, but if you're going to make something, reuse it. Recycling is good because it keeps things out of the land fill and can save energy over manufacturing a new product, but it still chews up energy and puts additional strain on our environment. Using reusable bottles is clearly best: there's no stink & pollution lines if you choose that path.

I've always wondered why politicians don't seem to understand how voter apathy is as rampant as it is, because often they need not look farther than themselves to see why.  They frequently make disappointing decisions, with City Hall continuing to unnecessarily prop up bottled water being the latest.  I know a lot of people might think "big deal, it's bottled water, there's bigger fish to fry", even if that's true (I find there are few big problems to fix as most of them are the result of all our small problems) how will we figure out a way to fry bigger fish if we can't even fry the small ones?  If a bunch of Aldermen can't even be bothered to bring a reusable bottle to work, or drink from a water fountain, you can see why a lot of us can't even be bothered to care about our political system any more.  But, we must remember, there are always exceptions, so get behind the politicans and their policies that will bring about a positive change.  This bottled water policy at City Hall may be a miniscule issue, but using it to start thinking forward will turn the tide on helping the environment, and that's a massive issue.