Rob Copeman-Haynes was still all smiles as his one-man vigil came to a close on Thursday, April 19. (James Smith photo)
One-man vigil reflects on our throwaway culture and contemplates a return to actually fixing things
For many Delta residents, the city’s annual spring clean up is a chance to rid themselves of the rubbish and unwanted goods they’ve accumulated over the past year. For others, it’s a time to find new-to-them furnishings, appliances, toys and other items left on the curb by their neighbours.
For one man, spring clean up has become a time to reflect on modern society’s throwaway culture and contemplate a return to a time when people fixed things rather than discarded them.
Rob Copeman-Haynes spent 26 hours sitting at the North Delta Social Heart Plaza in a quiet vigil during this year’s spring clean up, from 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 19. The aim wasn’t to incite people to change the way they live, but rather to bear witness to change he says is inevitably coming.
“I’ve been telling people that a vigil is not a protest, that a protest means that you assume that if somebody just changes a law then everything will get better,” Copeman-Haynes explained. “A vigil is what you do either when something is coming to birth or dying. I think it’s pretty clear to see even, and not to mention to say, that spring clean up has to end in one way or another. It’s going to end one way or another.
“So that’s my intention, to just kind of be present to that ending, knowing that there’s really not much I can do to stop stuff from coming from China and all those things that work together to mean that we have cheap stuff around that we have to get rid of in really no other way.”
Toys, clothes, furniture and more were left for the trash man during Delta’s 2018 Spring Clean up. (James Smith photo)
This was the second year that Copeman-Haynes held his one-man vigil. He said the experience helps him grow closer with his community.
“It’s like a retreat, a low-cost retreat for a day and half right hear my house, in my neighbourhood. And it builds, slowly, neighbourhood connections,” he said.
“The best thing is actually when a grandma with her grand daughter, probably in kindergarten, walking across the road there and the little girl just looks at me and waves. That’s the best. That’s what I discovered. The best thing is there’s all these people going by and I get to say hi, welcome back from your day at work or have a good day … and sort of observe the patterns of our lives in North Delta.”
Some sidewalks were crowded with a year’s worth of unwanted items during Delta’s 2018 Spring Clean up. (James Smith photo)
Copeman-Haynes described meeting a number of people during his vigil, including a number of police officers from the neighbouring North Delta Public Safety Building who came to check up on him.
“With one of them I had a 15-minute conversation about how his kid, a 12-year-old, goes and does what I used to do and collects all kinds of stuff out in Tsawwassen where they live and then he fixes it all up with his friends,” he said. “I don’t know if they sell it or whatever, but I know that can quickly turn into a garage full of stuff that you can’t do anything with.”
By contrast, he said, a lot of perfectly good items that could be salvaged and reused wind up getting crushed in the back of a garbage truck during spring clean up and hauled away to the landfill.
“On Wednesday morning before I came to the vigil here, I heard the truck just as I was waking up, so I got my dog and went and followed it around the neighbourhood for a little while. And in that course of time, four bicycles, tables, sofas, all kinds of good stuff got chucked in the back of the Remple truck,” Copeman-Haynes said. “It’s kind of disappointing.”
Crews worked long hours to collect all the stuff residents left out during Delta’s 2018 Spring Clean up. (James Smith photo)
However, the fact that so many things reach the landfill at all, that so few things get fixed these days rather than just thrown away, is an even bigger issue for Copeman-Haynes.
“I‘ve noticed it even over the last 10 or 15 years,” he said. “Stuff is getting less and less repairable. I think that’s factually true, so the broken things are often harder to fix. Whereas when I was a kid, when I was 12 or something, I bought … half a dozen bikes one summer and I fixed them all up and sold as my living. With bicycles you could, theoretically, still do that, but this planned obsolescence thing is still applicable there. ”
On some blocks it was nearly end-to-end refuse during Delta’s 2018 Spring Clean up. (James Smith photo)
Copeman-Haynes doesn’t expect anything to change overnight.
“I’m not asking governments to change laws right away or anything, but [I’m] just raising the bubbling up of public support and offering myself as sort of a little starter for that, a little seed, and we’ll see what grows out of that. I don’t have any expectations.”
Story written by James Smith, North Delta Reporter
Originally published May, 12, 2018
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