Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Toy Story

I have been thinking more about my chosen field and how it operates; much of this has come about as a result of looking at ‘green’ or environmentally friendly ways of boat building. I will begin by saying that I have no illusions about the importance of what I do, when asked what I do sometimes my response is that I design and build toys, because that is what I do. It does not matter if the boat is eight feet long or three hundred and eight if it is not a working boat it is a toy, this fact is important when you look at the idea of green boats. In a forum that I check in on regularly someone recently commented that the only truly green boat is one that you do not build, since it is only a toy and therefore there is no real imperative reason to build one.

Every time I see an article about the latest mega yacht being built and the efforts taken to make the project ‘green’ I have to chuckle. Beyond the fact that the boat or yacht is for pleasure only and therefore a toy, once the vessel has reached the point where it will do its job and hold the people it was designed to carry the rest is excess and can’t possibly be ‘green’, it exists only because it can be afforded by the owner. Many of these mega boats where designed with the capability to cross oceans, if they do a crossing it will likely do so only with a small crew on board with the owner joining it when it reaches its destination, meaning in the end it is only a floating hotel. Some do not even do that much and are shipped across oceans as deck cargo or in a ship designed for the purpose, yes they do exist.

This does not let the rest of us off the hook, in Canada we celebrate a small boat, the canoe but the canoe we celebrate is not the toy we use today but a workhorse designed to convey people and goods from one place to another in a world without roads. The footprint for an individual canoe may not be as large as mega yacht, but with the numbers of them out there they still leave a sizable footprint on our world. This really rings true when you consider the number of them wasting away in backyards or serving as a planter in a garden.

The previous paragraph does not mean that I have come to believe that we need to take up our place on the couch and remain there. We do need to get outside it is good for the body, the soul and helps form or should, a connection with the world we live in which is good for all.

It does mean that no matter how careful we are, manufacturing the craft we use requires resources, as do the trails that we find in the many parks that allow us access but we often give little thought to. These are maintained by someone who may have been flown in to do so that is also our footprint, as are the trees cut to make that trail. Our fascination with light weight gear is also a place where there is little green involved (except for that which we part with to purchase it) many light weight fibers are the result of the use modern high-tech production and research methods.

This does not mean that I am giving up on boats and the outdoors, I love being on the water and helping others get out there in boats they have built, and I will continue to research ‘green’ materials. What it does mean is that I don’t want to fool myself by thinking what I do is ‘green’ but I do want to make sure that what I do is done using materials that do the job as efficiently as possible and are as far as possible made of materials that are sustainable. Even that last statement I know could lead to a discussion on what is meant by efficiency.

Keep getting outside just remember, as you look around and enjoy the world in which you travel to look behind to consider the footprint you have left, it is there no matter how lightly you tread.

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