Cigarettes and plastic bags

Something put my seatmate at ease. Maybe he had just been away from his hometown of Morris, Manitoba, far too long and needed some companionship.

Something put my seatmate at ease. Maybe he had just been away from his hometown of Morris, Manitoba, far too long and needed some companionship.

Maybe the fact was that the overly familiar trip would take an hour from Winnipeg bus depot south along Highway 75 and as a salesman he couldn’t spend that much time next to someone without talking. Whatever the reason, he began to tell me about his business.

Like many Prairie-born folk he headed for the coast and the opportunity it promised.

With a partner he had acquired along the way he opened a business. They discovered that they could make a tidy profit importing 1,000 bag rolls of those clear plastic bags used to hold vegetables, fruit and bulk foods from grocery store bins. Soon they made some real inroads selling to small grocers in the Fraser Valley.

Their success drew the attention of the large domestic supplier who dominated this market. A price war resulted.

The big corporate player could afford to temporarily lower its price to a point below even its cost of production. Needless to say my seatmate and his partner couldn’t absorb such losses.

Rarely afforded the chance to hear about the inside machinations of a business like his, my interest encouraged his telling of the tale. Faced with the imminent end of their business they found an opportunity to have a conversation with their rival.

My seatmate said that they candidly laid their cards on the table. Obviously they couldn’t keep losing money — they temporarily would have to stop selling their rolls of bags.

But as soon as the big domestic producer raised its prices, they stated with all the confidence they could muster that they would be back in business — importing the cheaper bags again at a profit.

Given this reality the competitors figured out a way to get along. They settled on a price and a share of the market that they both could live with. This allowed the Prairie fellow’s business to survive. It obviously was a story he would be proudly telling to family and friends alike over the course of his visit home.

My hour-long ride with this man allowed me the chance to lessen somewhat the sense of disconnection rampant in our consumer society.

Most of us today don’t know where the common items that fill our daily lives come from. We don’t know what environmental, social or ethical issues may be linked to our use and disposal of them.

With the increasing complexity and globalization of the marketplace comes a breakdown in the link between our individual actions and their consequences.

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do,” wrote Wendell Berry, Kentucky farmer and renowned essayist and poet.

Our ignorance, willful or not, will not shelter us from the results of our actions, he said.

This past Tuesday Whitehorse city councillor Jan Stick moved a motion to ban single-use plastic shopping bags within city limits.

A day later, in a rare display of legislative accord, NDP Leader Todd Hardy saw his initiative to extend smoke-free areas in our territory quickly progress towards becoming law.

Both these initiatives serve to lessen that gap between our actions and their consequences. Both actions offer hope. They show us that we can through our conscious actions improve the world around us.

Are Canadian mining companies in Central America investing in conflict? Dawn Paley, an independent journalist who works with Rights Action, will speak on this issue at CYO Hall at 4th Ave. and Steele St. Wednesday, April 2nd at 7 p.m.

The following evening, April 3rd, also at 7 p.m. in CYO Hall she will participate in a panel discussion on mining and development in the Yukon along with Gerry Couture, Jean-Francois Des Lauriers and John Edzerza, among others.

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