Repairing our stories of happiness

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Who would have thought the revolution would begin on Maple Avenue in Haliburton village?

Hats off to SIRCH, whose repair café is shining a light on consumption run amok and providing a counterpoint that’s 100 per cent in tune with who we are as Highlanders.

Back after a pandemic-enforced break, the repair café is an opportunity for people to get their broken stuff fixed; volunteers skilled with screwdrivers and Super Glue will resuscitate our dead consumer goods.

Big business won’t be happy. Over the decades, manufacturers have baked in obsolescence with products that are hard to fix.

The results, as we reported last week, are showing up in our landfills. The amount of construction and demolition waste in Dysart, for example, has gone up 38 per cent in a year, helping to double our costs to haul it away to the lucky place, out of sight and mind, with a big enough hole to put it in.

Meanwhile, we run down to Costco or log in to Amazon and get the shiny new thing. Perhaps we like it that way. Buying new makes us smile; ripping out and building back bigger makes us feel we’ve accomplished something.

But what if we know deep down it doesn’t work like that, and so we have a sensation in our stomachs that something’s amiss?

The “right to repair” movement is gaining traction. Legislators in the United States have passed laws requiring manufacturers to make things fixable. Attempts at similar laws have been proposed at provincial and federal levels in Canada, but nothing significant has passed yet.

The movement is having an impact, however. The latest incarnation, for example, of Microsoft’s Surface Pro computer allows you to replace the battery – that’s one less laptop in the electronics bin and more money left in our pockets. Last month, John Deere relented to allow farmers in the U.S. to fix their own tractors.

The repair café is part of this movement.

But this is more than just a bunch of folks pushing a rock up the vertical mountain of materialism. Instead, it’s reframing what a good life means. It’s telling us a new story about what makes us happy.

And that’s where the Highlands can be a seed of revolution.

Haliburton County is a place where what we do for the community counts for more than the size of our house, where GoFundMe requests get met within days, where saying hello to friends on main street is more valuable than the latest iPhone.

Our future will be secured only when we realize a thriving community and environment is what makes us happy. That hanging out for 30 minutes while we learn to fix our broken reading glasses is more fun than adding a new pair to our shopping cart.

The Highlands gets it right. We can be a beacon for how a community could be. And we can begin to repair our broken world.

Zoomed Out is a new column that looks at the big picture – the stories behind the stories.