Saturday, 7 May 2011

creation cruelty??

We spent a wonderful few hours at the Waterloo Earth Day celebrations today. Lovely day, perfect weather for planting trees, holding snakes, watching owls and falcons, building birdhouses, eating hotdogs. It was terrific.

There was, however, a moment that totally caught me off guard. Eden was making a cool bookmark craft. There was a piece of fabric set on the table. She was told to put violet and forsythia flowers onto the fabric, cover them with waxed paper, then hammer the heck out of them. Here's what it looked like when she was done:

Neat, eh? I'd never seen this craft before. The colours from the flowers and leaves are dyed onto the fabric in neat designs. She was proud, and so was the 3 year old hammering next to her. The 3 year old's mother, on the other hand, was a different story. Here's how that story went:

3 year old: (hammering away at the flowers, but the waxed paper keeps slipping away on her)
Craft leader to 3 year old's mom: Do you mind just holding the waxed paper for her?
3 year old's mom: No, I can't.
3 year old: (continues to hammer away, waxed paper continues to slide)
Craft leader to 3 year old's mom: Do you mind helping? If you just hold the paper for her, it'd be much easier.
3 year old's mom: No, I'm actually against this activity. I don't think it's nature friendly. I think it's actually quite cruel.

The 3 year old finished her craft and showed it proudly to her mom. Her mom said, "Hm."

I looked down at the mom's leather shoes. And the plastic container of Huggies disposable wipes in her hand. And the juice box in her other hand. And wondered about the rest of her wardrobe, and the rest of her life. If this craft is considered cruelty, what else was I doing on a daily basis that could fit into this cruel category?

A few things came to mind quite quickly:

1. We drive a car at least once a day. This qualifies as cruelty to all of creation because of the fumes and the use of a non-renewable resource.
2. I wear leather shoes. No idea how those cows were treated, or how environmentally friendly the chemicals used in dying the leather or creating the rubber soles were.
3. I kill mosquitoes any chance I can get. Ants on the counter top? Them too.
4. I loathe mice. If I found one in our house, I would find a way to do away with it.
5. I eat vegetables. Is that being cruel to the vegetable to eat it?
6. I eat meat. Obviously cruel.

Where does the cruel line start and where does it end? Seems like a pretty sad life, to see a flower craft as cruel. But maybe I'm wrong. When I think about an average day, I can list more things that are creation cruel than creation care.

What do you see as creation cruelty? Have you changed anything about your lifestyle to care for creation in better ways?


  1. Crafts does not equal cruel in my book. If that's the case then the white and vanilla card stock that I use on almost every project would probably fall in the cruel category by this definition ;)
    I guess to be less cruel, all my new projects will be use black paper only!
    Just remember it takes all kinds to make the world go round.

  2. Tanya - perhaps all paper crafts are cruel? Because trees are hurt in the process? Even though she baffled me with her comment, it has made me look at my days in a different way this week. Challenges me to discern my actions - even the ones I think are "little" like making a flower bookmark.

  3. My boys loved nothing more than smashing rocks with a hammer when they were young. I wonder if that would have been considered cruel by some of my neighbours as well? I like the flower idea, and will try it out with my granddaughters soon. It seems the assesment of "cruelty" in your anecdote was linked to the hammering she saw and heard, while the environmental cruelty linked to the products we are so addicted too, is easy to ignore, becasue we just flick on the light switch, or jump to the pump. It makes me think of the beautiful Manitoba Hydro mural, and the harsh reality of northern flooding and unstable shorelines that are behind our cheap electricity. By the way, congrats on posting the blog.

  4. That does seem a little extreme to me, especially as she stood there in here leather shoes, etc. I would be more concerned about the cow that was used for the shoes than the flower.

    I would never be intentionally cruel to anyone or anything but like you, there are things in my life that would be considered cruel.

    Funny with the mice; in our very first house, we had a problem with mice in the attic. The house was very old and the ducts were high up in the walls; the mice would fall into the duct and you could see them through the metal vent trying to climb up to get back into the attic. i would make Rob climb up, take the vent cover off and take each mouse back into the woods across the road!

  5. Elsie - I agree. Very easy to ignore the damage we do daily without even thinking about it. I admit that when I hear the dire predictions about where our world is heading in the next 10, 20, etc years, I feel a bit paralyzed instead of inspired to change.

    Suzanne - I love your mice story! I have not shown this much kindness to these rodents.

  6. I cut some flowers for the table yesterday. We have lots of daffodils and tulips, but somehow I always cringe at cutting them. I have to tell myself that they are here to enjoy and only bloom for a short while, so if I can enjoy some of them inside as well as outside, then so much the better. I can apply that to a craft without any hesitation - especially something as important as a child's craft. (I have hand print hanging on the bulletin board of my desk that is 20 years old, from my oldest son when he was 4). As for animals and insects, if they are in my house they are fair game - I give them a moment of respect, but that's about it :-) .... Outside then, I try to respect their space.

    There are lots of ways I don't respect the environment as I should. When I throw compost in the garbage when it is so easy to dispose of now with the green bins; Driving when I could walk; using throw away plastic instead of re-usable dishes. It feels a little like a diet - one can get overwhelmed and quit, or say, ok... I'll do better next time and forgive yourself so you can move on.

  7. I agree, Sandy - nothing like bringing the outside in to enjoy some freshly cut flowers.

    In terms of habits that die hard, I feel like I need to retrain my brain. In France, we had to walk or take the bus. Here we don't have to - even when it's a short distance. There are so many benefits (health, environment) to walking, biking, etc. I need to sometimes tell my brain that driving isn't an option - because someday maybe it won't be!

  8. I struggle with this one often -- we've tried to make many changes in our lives to have less of a negative impact, but when I look around me I see all the excess and the negative impact. It can be just overwhelming; sometimes I over think everything and try to buy the best, least impact option -- and other times I just ignore that side of me and buy the new shirt I like or the shoes I didn't really need.

  9. You inspire me, though, Heather - how you intentionally approach decision-making through an ecological friendly lens. But it CAN be overwhelming, especially when we don't have all the information, or when some companies are "sneaky" about whether they actually use green ingredients even when they have a green label... We should be gentle on ourselves while we're gentle on the earth!