Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Tax me, baby!

Tax me, baby!
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This is an open blog post to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. Steve, I want you to sit down for a moment. I have a little request, and I think you’re going to get excited. Okay, truth be told you could even pass-out. Take a seat and get comfortable; you don’t hear this kind of thing every day and I want you to be prepared. I want you to raise taxes.

Steve, sorry… I’m getting ahead of myself. This is so rude of me. Let me step back a moment and give you some background…

We’re making a mess of things

In parks, we’re told to carry out everything we take in. In life, however, we’re willing to bring in all kinds of crap with little worry of consequence. As a result, we’re really screwing up this planet for future generations. I’m willing to accept my responsibility for this. Just like you, I have a bit of a hankering for nice things.

The reality is that I just can’t control myself. I find a nice new suit, and all my self-control goes out the window. I see that bottle of fine imported scotch, and I think more about the taste than any negative impact caused by shipping these bottles across the Atlantic. Sometimes it’s easier to just give in to my impulses, regardless of how damaging they are.

I’m a bad person. My consumption is out of control, and I want you to help me go on a consumption diet. What do you think? Can you lend a hand?

One really has to want to change

Given that I have no self-control (like many others out there) I want you to step in and make it easier for all of us. First of all, plastic bags. These things really have become a scourge, haven’t they? Listen, we could do a few things. One, we could just ban them, like they did in California. Heck, there’s even a Facebook page for Vancouverites dedicated to this cause.

Alternatively, (and I know this is the part you’ll like) we could add a tax to all plastic bags. I hear that in Ireland they did this, and within a year, bag consumption went down by over 90%. I know what you’re thinking…that really is a lot!

The third option, which I agree may be overly Pavlovian in nature, is a big electrical shock. Sure, this is a bit of a blunt approach, but could you imagine how much better we’d be at remembering to bring cloth bags to the store if the alternative included electrocution?

Up the food chain

You know Roger’s Chocolates? They make really wonderful treats, but they are wrapped in enough plastic to make Michael Jackson envious. Really, it’s just plain hideous. But what am I to do about all of that? You know, I did write them a letter asking them to package more sustainably, but they didn’t seem that interested in my comments.

But again, this is where we differ. After all, you’re pretty well known across this country. If you were to speak-up, companies would probably pay a lot of attention. Now, I know you’re pretty careful about upsetting all of those big businesses, and who wouldn’t be, but again, I want to woo you with the notion of taxes. (I know how that word gets you excited.)

The truth is that these companies are building their wealth at the expense of our environment. Wouldn’t it be fair to hold them more accountable? Now, I’m not talking about anything over-the-top here, but what if we just asked them to pack out what they pack in? (See my clever reference back to that analogy at the beginning of my letter? Yup, I’m pretty good with that sort of thing.)

What if you said to every manufacturer that they had to cover the cost of disposing of any products they create? So, when a car reaches the end of its life-cycle, the manufacturer would be required to reclaim the car, disassemble it and recycle it. Can you imagine how much more environmentally friendly they would become if they had to be accountable for what they create?

Those who didn’t comply? You’ve got it! We can tax them! See, it’s a “win-win”!

End note

Perhaps the above seems a little cheeky, and I apologize for that. The point I’m trying to make is that we all find it difficult to make positive long-term change because it seems difficult to quantify, no matter how logical it is. On the other hand, short-term pain can really help to change our behaviour for the better.

You see, I’m a designer, and I work with a lot of companies. The reality is that most are just looking for ways to do business better. The tough part for them is that it’s simply too easy to not worry about the planet. It’s often simpler and less expensive to make a mess than it is to make good, sustainable stuff.

So, forgive my attempt at humour, and please do take my suggestion to heart. All of us need to start feeling the pain of our bad decisions. We can’t just leave this mess for future generations. Honestly, none of us would feel good about that.

Yours sincerely,

Eric Karjaluoto

Follow @karj to hear about these posts first.

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