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Welcome to 2012

January 2, 2012

2012Can you believe we’re already twelve years into the ‘new millennium’? I remember so clearly the awe (not to mention some of the fear) surrounding the shift from the 20th century to the 21st. It seemed so surreal – like science fiction come true.  And while the world envisioned in ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’, ‘Blade Runner’, and ‘The Jetsons’ hasn’t been realized, a lot of the technology of ‘Star Trek’ has (who’da thunk).

So, is the world a better place a dozens years in?  Unfortunately, I don’t think so.  We’ve come so far in so many areas (technology, medicine), yet we’ve remained stagnant or regressed in so many others (population growth, the environment, our treatment of one another).  Here are just a few of the things I wish we could fix in the coming year.

Our treatment of one another.  One of the Ten Commandments basically says, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated” (in my opinion, this should be considered the #1 cardinal rule of life).  Wouldn’t it be great if we all followed this one simple ‘rule’?  We wouldn’t have any more wars or slavery, religious conflicts or other acts of cruelty and inhumanity.  People EverywhereWe’re all in this together (citizens of the planet) and we all came from the same ‘source’, yet we so often treat those who we think aren’t ‘like us’ quite horribly.  As my mother used to say (when my brothers and sisters and I would get into some stupid argument or another): “Why can’t we all just get along?” (And on a more individual / personal note – when did it become commonplace to ‘expect’ someone to do something for you without so much as uttering ‘Thank you’ afterwards?  In the past year, both my husband and I have helped several family, friends, associates, and acquaintances with a number of tasks [fixing things, writing things, moving things] and been stunned by the total lack of appreciation expressed for our efforts. I guess it goes right back to people not following the ‘Do unto others …’ commandment again). 

Endangered SpeciesOur treatment of other species.  The human race is ‘supposedly’ the most intelligent on the planet – yet we’ve driven thousands of other species to extinction (or near extinction).  Tigers in India have been poached out of existence; white rhinos are gone from the wild; African elephants are threatened by farmers, fences, and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.  We’ve practically fished our oceans clean, destroyed or decimated millions of acres of the natural world (including rainforests, farmland, and coral reefs) where rare and irreplaceable plants, animals, and insects used to live and (whether you ‘believe’ in global warming or not) there is clear evidence that our blatant disrespect for the very air we breath and the water we drink is eventually going to kill us all (not to mention the fact that we can’t keep stripping the planet of it’s natural resources because – believe me folks – when they’re gone, they’re GONE!)  The ‘circle of life’ isn’t a myth (or just a Disney song) – it’s real and we all suffer when other species disappear FOREVER.

Our over-reliance on computer technology and social media.  I debated on whether these should be two points, but decided to lump them together.  I won’t deny that the unprecedented growth of computer technology has had its advantages in any number of areas, and that I rely on the Internet for research, a computer for my work as a writer, and email for communication. I carry a cell phone for emergencies (I last charged it about eighteen months ago; I pay $22 a month for the security of knowing I have it with me, but I rarely use it).  I use this blog as a way of reaching out to others, and I recently set up a Twitter account (no, I don’t ‘get’ it, and I haven’t tweeted yet, but I wanted to keep abreast of several things and apparently Twitter was the only way to do so).  Technology OverloadBut I fail to see the overall appeal of being on every social networking site imaginable, of posting to places like Facebook or a blog more than once a week (unless its part of your job), and the appeal of ‘tweeting’ your every move (or ‘following’ people you don’t know and likely will never meet, just because they’re ‘famous’).  Let’s face it – in the overall scheme of things, who really cares where you are, who you’re with and/or what you ate for breakfast?  It is NOT necessary to be ‘connected’ all the time; we all got along fine before being ‘always on’ became ‘the norm’.  I’ve seen college students fail courses because they were so wrapped up in texting, Facebooking, emailing, tweeting, chatting, etc. during classes that they ignored lectures, forgot about homework, and couldn’t concentrate during exams.  People in my town (and yours, no doubt) have DIED because other people were texting or talking on cell phones while driving (my favourite ‘self inflicted injury’ was the girl who fell into the open manhole because she was texting while walking – sorry but I have to say, “Serves you right!”) Yes, there is a need for people to communicate, technology makes that easier, and most of these tools (I suppose) have some purpose.  But use them with a dose of common sense, for heaven’s sake. They aren’t the ‘be all and end all’ of anyone’s life.

Consumer over-consumption (and waste).  I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time about the amount of consumer waste that is produced every year (and I probably will, but not today).  What really galls me at this time of year is the volume of ‘consumables’ overstocked for Christmas that aren’t purchased and end up going to ‘the dump’ (yes, I know some will go liquidators, but anything THEY don’t sell gets trashed).  ConsumablesJust this morning I was in the grocery store and there were two full aisles of ‘seasonal’ snacks, candy, and decorations marked down 50%; most will never sell.  Canadian Tire (a giant hardware / car care / housewares store here in Canada) had multiple aisles of indoor and outdoor lights, decorations, toys, and miscellaneous ‘holiday’ items discounted last week; again, my guess is that most of it won’t ever be sold.  And don’t kid yourself that any of it will be returned to the shelves next year – it will be compacted and written off (as will the food stuffs and other goods in every single store in every single town in every single province, state, country, etc. that no one bought).  We produce way more ‘stuff’ than we can possibly consume and the ‘unsellables’ end up in the landfill (and the stuff we DO buy ends up – at some time or another – there as well).  Funny thing, too – no one wants a ‘dump’ in their backyard / neighbourhood / city / town – yet we all contribute to the mass amount of trash that has to be put SOMEWHERE.  Go ahead and blame China, Taiwan, and the Philippines if you must (since most of the ‘stuff’ we see in our stores comes from those high production / low wage-paying countries), but if we didn’t have an insatiable appetite for ‘more stuff’ (and stores didn’t overstock by something like 30%), we wouldn’t be at risk of burying ourselves in garbage.

Lack of equality in monetary resources.  I don’t pretend to understand why people thought camping out in parks across the country in protest of wages and wealth (the ‘Occupy Movement’) would make any difference, but I am appalled by the fact that somewhere between one and five percent of the world’s population earns and controls something like 95% of it’s wealth (and that they don’t feel compelled to spread it around through charitable contributions and/or increased taxes to help those less fortunate).  Piles of MoneyI am not wealthy (by any stretch of the imagination) but I still feel it is my responsibility to share what I have – I donate food, money, clothing and household items to various charities, and I give to two animal organizations (the Humane Society – a no-kill shelter for cats and dogs – and the Donkey Sanctuary –I’m sponsoring two donkeys this year; the money goes towards their care).  It fascinates (horrifies, actually) me when a ‘star’ donates money to charity and it gets headlines – Justin Bieber purportedly gave $50,000 to the Children’s Wish Foundation – sounds good until you realize that with his income, that’s the equivalent of me giving them about 50 cents!  Shouldn’t this sort of donation be EXPECTED of people who earn millions (or more) per year?!?!?  Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are apparently ‘encouraging’ the super-wealthy to give away half their money – hell, they could give away 90% and still be richer than you or I could ever dream of being (how do you spend a BILLION dollars, anyway?!?!?) The ‘haves’ should definitely be helping the ‘have nots’ (which might just take us back to that commandment thing again!)

I read something not long ago that went sort of like this (I’m paraphrasing – and possibly quite badly – here): If you want to change the world, you have to stop talking about it and start doing something about it.  So, here’s my New Year’s Resolution: I’m going to (continue to) be nice to others, take care of the environment (and the animals) around me, use technology only when absolutely necessary, buy less, and give more.  How about you?

Happy New Year from … the other side of 55.

Sam and Luna

Sam (on the left) and Luna; 'my' sponsored donkeys (2012)

  1. January 2, 2012 5:19 pm

    Happy New Year to you. I will continue to learn more technology to complement my online class. I learned a lot last semester having conducted over 36 web meetings. The Byrds sang “Turn, turn, turn”…my song will be “Learn, learn, learn.”
    I will probably not buy much in the way of clothing again. My wardrobe is still suitable from before retirement. One thing though. I don’t think ladies wear dresses anymore. Note to self: donate. I made a similar decision last January and fell off the fashion challenge once back this summer when I found the “perfect” jeans for my figure. They were a find.
    Your donkeys are wonderful. Do you get to visit them or do you receive update correspondence about them?

    • January 2, 2012 5:37 pm

      I’m hardly a luddite but I’m going to have to do some learning around Twitter and Facebook when I (eventually) get published. I’ve also found that I don’t need so many clothes now that I’m retired (my typical work-a-day wardrobe consists of yoga pants and t-shirts); I’ve donated quite a bit already (but my closets are still bulging). I ‘met’ the donkeys during the Sanctuary’s Christmas Open House (that’s when I get to choose who I want to sponsor); Sam and Luna were brought to the Sanctuary separately but soon became ‘best friends’ and are always together so it was a perfect match (since I wanted to sponsor two this year); I’ll be visiting them again in the spring when the Sanctuary reopens to the public (twice a week).



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