“Don’t let’s waste waste” – that’s the rather awkward title of an article from the The Economist that just flashed across my Facebook news feed. I skimmed it (Barack Obama is setting up an e-waste task force), but it got me thinking of a waste-oriented conversation in which I participated about a week ago.
It happened in the Railway Club … but that’s neither here nor there.
There I sat with my good friend Bu – who is a Senior Research Manager for the Department of Community and Government Services in Nunavut – and we, along with some other fine folks, were discussing Canada’s North. As a resident of one of Canada’s most Northern communities, Iqaluit, Bu had some inside knowledge and thoughtful opinions about the territory, which suffers from, among other things, an 11.6% unemployment rate.
And this is when – amidst several delicious jugs – I had a semi-eloquent moment: “People talk a lot about how much our world wastes,” I said. “I don’t think that there’s an example of waste more disappointing than the way we waste human talent.”
You see, human beings are the only species on this planet without full employment. All the other ones – from worms to whales to walruses to wallabies – have jobs (or, more accurately, they all have work to be done). This is not a new concept – undoubtedly, the delicious jugs made me seem very wise at the time – but it should be noted that, according to the International Labour Organization, nearly one billion people on this planet are unemployed and countless others find themselves underemployed because of barriers like technology, mental illness, poverty, the price of education, apathy, addiction, fear, and laziness to name a few.
Says co-author of Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, “In a world where a billion workers cannot find a decent job or any employment at all, it bears stating the obvious: we cannot by any means – monetarily, governmentally, or charitably – create a sense of value and dignity in people’s lives when we are simultaneously creating a a society that clearly has no need for them.”
Says Godfrey von Bismarck, co-author of The History of Work Series on the Daily Gumboot, “Wow, this gives whole new meaning to getting wasted.”
Jokes and tangents aside, while Canada should be proud of it’s 7.6% unemployment rate in this fragile global market, we still have a long way to go before being a truly inclusive, efficient and productive society. Especially when it comes to the value that we place on work and employment.
After all, a society that wastes so many electronics logically wastes so many people, too. And the price for both kinds of waste is higher than we can afford to pay.
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