All the Nice Things - Dundurn
Mar 24, 2022

All the Nice Things

Have you ever noticed how everything we do brings suffering to the world? What a depressing thought. But red meat tastes good (and bacon omg!). So does Nutella. We Northern folks like going on vacations at all-inclusive tropical paradise resorts and watching hockey on huge flat screens. We like a good bargain so we can buy more. We need to eat and go places. I could go on and on.

The thing is, I really hate legumes because they wreck stinky havoc on my system. I watched a tv show that had this expert explain that harvesting palm oil may be bad, but it would take an area six times bigger to get the same amount of oil from other plants (goodbye rain forest). Eco-friendly resorts are expensive. Do airlines really plant trees with my greenwashing money? Don't get me started on recycling.

A few years ago, I answered a slew of questions on my energy provider website to see how I could do my part (and save money). Verdict was that if I took shorter showers — meaning cutting this quality time in half—I could save up to $28 a year. Wow.

As students, my roommates and I lived in this shabby apartment. In a fit of wanting to do the right thing, we changed all regular light bulbs for ‘Eco’ ones. Our building's electric system was so old (or badly done) that all the bulbs exploded within a few weeks. We had to treat them like toxic waste because they contained mercury.

We are told that only the poor rent so we should behave like respectable citizens and get a mortgage. No freedom without an SUV. Unless we invest in the stock market, we will never get to retire. And these plans are for the lucky ones: those that fit into this flawed system, that can make do with or without happy pills, back pains, bankruptcy, and other first world problems.

Now they tell us that we should be careful because our personal choices have a significant impact on the planet. I am exasperated that this issue has been made an individual problem. They guilt trip everyone while everything, and I mean everything, screams at us to consume more and more: food made with sugar and fat that our monkey brain is bound to love, fine-tuned advertising designed by neuroscience experts, governments that praise consumer society instead of banning wasteful packaging and planned obsolescence. They tell us to buy electric cars while they invest our hard-earned money into roads. Unless you live in a big city, you need a car because decent long distance public transport does not exist.

The more I think about it, the more I see zero-waste like a bourgeois dream. Normal people don’t have time, money or mental space to do this. Zero-waste groceries, how nice, but don't you need a car to carry all those glass jars?

I spent decades in schools and I am still confused about the world. I read once that storytelling helps our primitive brains grasp the complex problems. So I write good stories, with interesting characters who live fantastic lives. I entertain, and hope that perhaps someday we will stop crapping in our drinking water.

J.D. Kurtness left her native North to study microbes in Montreal, but eventually branched out into writing. She won an Indigenous Voices Award for her first novel, De vengeance (Of Vengeance). Learn more about J. D. Kurtness