What Will Become of Us?

I was at the pool this morning, resting in the sauna following my aquafit class. As sweat poured down my face I looked out into the pool area. The place was full of happy, loud, exuberant kids — their year-end celebration at MacDonald Island Park. Seeing them made me think of my three grandchildren and I wondered what, if anything, they were doing today to celebrate the end of another school year.

Thinking of them made me suddenly wonder: what will become of them? Of us? Of this big, old, beautiful world?

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with recycling, reusing and rethinking how I do things. How the things I do impacts the planet, impacts all the creatures I share it with. I try hard to recycle — have been for over 30 years. Sadly, I’ve come to find out that most of what I’ve saved from my landfill has simply made its way into someone else’s landfill. And, now, because there is such a glut of recyclable materials in the marketplace, companies are starting to refuse to take more. Municipalities are changing their recycling rules and reducing and restricting what can be placed in a blue box. I’m being forced to pollute.

When I shop I look for products that have minimal packaging so that I am not adding to the 8 billion tons of plastic that makes its way into the environment. I use cloth/reusable grocery bags, severely limit my use of plastic produce bags and when I do have to use them I generally reuse ones I’ve had forever. I try to make as much of our food as possible; try to remember to say “no straw, please”; carry my own water bottle, take my own travel mug when I’m on the road; wear my clothes til they’re rags, try to purchase clothes made from natural fibres, and on and on and on.

My point, now that I’m getting around to it is this: when I looked at those happy kids playing in this fantastic aquatic centre I saw how impossible it is for people to really change, to do what needs to be done if we are going to save our world for the millenia to come.

My bathing suit — and the hundreds of other bathing suits covering all those bodies in the water — is made of polyester and other man-made fibres. Billions of tiny microscopic fibres that will never break down were being shed into the water, then filtered out into the water system. Those tiny particles will make their way into our drinking water, our soft drinks, our beer. They will accumulate in our bodies. Maybe we won’t starve to death like the whales, seals, porpoises and sea-birds that we’re inundated daily with on social media, but one day all that gunk is going to wreak havoc on our bodies.

But what are we supposed to wear? Baggy, saggy cotton suits? Or, should we completely forsake things like public pools? There isn’t a square foot in the building that doesn’t contain something made of plastic. The slides, the lane markers, the flags, the diving platforms, the race stands, the nets, the life preservers, the whistles, the pool liners. It’s all made of some form of plastic. And if we were to decide that pools were verboten, then what? What do we do with all that stuff?

It’s not just public pools, either. It’s everything. All the advances that have been made to simplify our lives, to make them more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more meaningful, have contributed greatly to the slow and steady destruction of the very thing we wish to see and have more of — life.

Despite this gloomy outlook, I don’t feel completely hopeless. Everyday, people are waking up to the idea that this world and all it has to offer is finite. Entire countries are banning the use of disposable plastics like bags, cutlery and straws. Individuals from all over the world and from all walks of life are trying to effect change within their personal lives. They are writing companies and governments and manufacturers and demanding that changes be made in how products are packaged and sold. Entrepreneurs are starting businesses that are focused on cleaning up shorelines, trails and parks.

I hope, and I tentatively believe, that solutions to our pollution problems will be made. Probably not in what’s left of my lifetime, but not that far off, either.

Sitting there in the sauna, in my cute, but bad for the environment bathing suit, I thought I could envision a future where kids could still enjoy a day of fun at the local pool.

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