Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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23

Apr

2021

Mixed thoughts on Earth Day

Author: Jim Taylor

If this column seems a little lighter than usual, it’s because I completely forgot about writing it for the local weekly paper. Until today. Which happens to be Earth Day, 2021.

            A few years ago, a visiting friend asked me what I thought of the state of the world. 

            At the personal level, I said, I’m an incurable optimist. I don’t know any individual who would refuse to help out another individual in need. 

            I know, I know, there are occasional stories of someone being murdered while 27 eyewitnesses did nothing. But those stories make the news because they’re the exceptions. 

            Most individuals can be, and are, compassionate to other individuals. 

            At the collective level, though, I am equally pessimistic. As a human species, we seem incapable of thinking beyond the present. We are terminally short-sighted. 


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22

Apr

2018

One Earth Day a year is not enough

Author: Jim Taylor

My office window looks out onto an orchard. On this particular morning, my neighbour the farmer is spraying his trees with something toxic. He’s garbed from head to toe in impervious yellow plastic, and wearing a gas mask over his face, as he drives his tractor up one row, down the other.

            I keep my window closed. I don’t want any of it on me.

            I know the spray kills certain pests. I wonder what else it kills. How does it affect the bacteria in the soil, the worms, the fungi that serve as nerve endings for tree roots?

            Not all farmers use these sprays. I know other farmers who don’t spray their trees. They encourage worms. They compost their wastes. They thin blossoms by hand. But they pay a price for their commitment -- more hand labour, uncertain sales, lower profits.

            I can’t blame my neighbour for trying to grow perfect fruit. He knows how fussy consumers can be. I wonder why we consumers think that only unblemished fruit is worth buying. We pick through the bins in our supermarkets, rejecting apples that have a tiny scab, peaches with a small bruise, grapes with even a trace of shrivelling.

            Does it ever occur to us that a chain of consequences leads directly from our shopping preferences to a farmer swathed in a hazmat suit to protect himself from his own toxic sprays?

            Probably not. Yet that’s the whole point of Earth Day, marked around the world today.


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18

Apr

2018

Earth Day and goddess worship

Author: Jim Taylor

This coming Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. Not to be confused with Earth Hour, back in March, which promoted turning off surplus electric lights for one hour, causing a wave of darkness to sweep all around the earth. Earth Day has a larger focus this year, to “End Plastic Pollution.”

            “Plastics,” says a promotion piece, “poison and injure marine life, disrupt human hormones, litter beaches and landscapes, [and] clog our waste streams and landfills. The exponential growth of plastics now threatens the survival of our planet.”

            I don’t disagree. But I see plastics as a symptom of a deeper malaise. We didn’t have plastics until we made them out of fossil fuels. And our use and abuse of fossil fuels reflects the belief that this planet is a lifeless landfill site where we humans can dump our waste products forever.

            Basically, we don’t care much about the earth that gives us life.


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