Monday, May 18, 2009

Turning Off the T.V.

In yesterday's Star, there's a lament by a mom, Kate Haas, hoping to live without television without other moms becoming defensive at the admission: "You think I consider myself Mother Superior, when really I'm bumbling along like anyone else - just with one less piece of furniture."

It's a similar problem with any environmental behaviour. If I tell people that I live without a dryer, they're rarely excited for me and my hydro bills. They're more likely to seem slightly annoyed. I want to share how easy it is to manage without one, that I can do it with a family of five. But people hear it as bragging with a holier-than-thou attitude. And that doesn't make them start stringing up a clothesline.

And sometimes I want to correct someone's behaviour. But that's tricky business too. A friend of mine puts all plastics in the blue bin, even those the city doesn't collect. She figures if she just shoves everything in there, then eventually they'll just start taking everything. The reality is that any piece of recycling that isn't accepted actually contaminates the recycling batch. But I didn't tell her that. She was just so pleased with her strategy, I could hardly burst her bubble.

We have to tread so carefully raising these issues without raising any hackles. Yet we have to make enough of an impact to actually alter behaviours. It's a fine line.

Adbusters started a "Turn Off The T.V. Week" fifteen years ago. It's the week around Earth Day (April 22nd). It's since changed to "Digital Detox Week" to include computers and blackberries and cellphones. I put posters around the school and announcements about it every year, but I'm not sure that has any affect at all. Some argue, what's the point? It's just a week. It's not going to have an effect on anything. A medium sized TV on for five hours a day, costs less than six dollars a month. That's nothing.

The idea is that if we can drag ourselves away from all that stuff for one week, we'll find new things to do. We'll ride our bikes to the park or play badminton on the street or learn something. And then that one week might carry on for months or longer. That's not always the reality, but it is often enough to give it a try.

And even if nobody else does, I make my family do it. At the very least it's a change of pace for us. And I like to know that we're not so addicted to technological leisure pursuits that we can't turn them off for a week. It's my experience that teenagers aren't defensive about this one as much they are amused at the insanity of the suggestion.

No comments: