We won't get to carbon-neutral by using neutral language

By John M. Richardson, Ottawa Citizen, March 9, 2020

(...)On the other side of the cabin, partially obscured by jackets drying on the clothesline, two older men finished eating. One of them added a log to the blazing fire, sipped his hot drink and looked through the stove window to the mesmerizing movements of the small inferno within. Then I noticed him gather together his garbage, open the door, and toss into the fire a grocery store bag, juice box, plastic straw and other items.

I had one of those brief flashes of deep, momentary confusion. Did I really see that?

A moment later, he reopened the stove and his friend threw in a plastic container and lid of the type used by supermarket delis.

I asked them what on Earth they were doing. You’re not allowed to do that I said, as the smell of burning plastic permeated the cabin. It’s common sense not to throw recycling into a park stove.

The man grew angry, perhaps because I was calling him out on something he does whenever he’s in the park. A National Capital Commission volunteer came into the lodge on break and tried to mollify him. She said she could see both sides of the argument. He stared me down across the drying ski jackets, paced, ranted about how I had no right to speak. When he left, the volunteer told me that, while she understood the issue, everyone should keep their opinions to themselves. Nobody has a right to speak out about anyone else’s behaviour.

Franchement! There are not two sides to every argument: Nobody should incinerate plastics in Gatineau Park or anywhere. And everyone has a right to speak out. Talking, negotiating, arguing and sometimes calling people out is how healthy societies function.


Connect with us