Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some Earth Day ideas. That have nothing to do with buying a new furnace or checking for leaks.

I saw an interview in the Ottawa Sun with John Baird yesterday. I expect John Baird to respond to Sun questions with total platitudes, empty rhetoric, and evasive reasoning. And that was all there:

Q: Is Canada as a country green enough from an industrial perspective?
A: We are taking significant action to move the ball forward. Every day we make moves to push it forward. I think the environment has a different priority (among the public) than it did even a few years ago. That's a huge help for me to push forward my agenda.

Ummm...was that an answer to the question? Or was it, instead...NOTHING? Then they ask him what he does at home to "green" up his own life. He has something called Bullfrog power, which uses...biomass...and stuff. Also, he uses phosphate-free dishwasher detergent and has a programmable thermostat and keeps his air conditioning off most of the time. So...the same things almost everyone does. Perhaps someone should remind this man that he is the environment minister. What do we know about John Baird? That he is responsible for crushing light rail in Ottawa. And that he runs radio ads here in town to tell us that he is tough and committed and hard-nosed and basically a good guy. What, however, are his policies on the environment? Phosphate-free dishwasher detergent? Or...NOTHING? This is a big reason we're screwed. The guy with what is clearly the most important portfolio in the entire government is busy affecting municipal elections and making sure that the environmental initiatives in Ottawa are not viable.

The theory, as I understand it, of the Conservative government, is twofold. First of all, the environment and the economy are equally important and must be balanced. This makes sense to middle-aged guys like Doc, who would like to see the world saved, but they want to make sure they don't lose any income over it. But this is, in many ways, insane. For one thing, there are many ways to completely overhaul our oil-dependant lifestyles while still making a profit, and in fact creating more jobs and more business. And secondly, even if that were not the case, let's compare. The economy crumbles completely, what happens? We've seen it before, maybe not in our lifetimes, but we know about the stock market crash in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. Times were hard. People couldn't find work. They were depressed and some died and others turned to crime. OK, that's bad. Now, what happens when the environment crumbles completely? I don't think the two can possibly be compared. It's the difference between a car bomb and a nuclear bomb.

The second theory of the Conservatives is that so long as China continues to emit at the level they are, the rest of the world is screwed anyway, so why should we bother until we can get them to stop? OK. Here is what's wrong with that plan. And it's the best argument I have for "greening" up your own house. I think everyone should lobbly the government to do more about the environment. But if you green up your own house, then you will feel better about lobbying the government - I've done my part. There is nothing more I can do here. Now, it's your turn. I have the right lightbulbs. I have the new furnace. I keep my heat low and my A/C off. I have double windows and I don't accept plastic bags and I recycle all my cardboard and my metal and my plastic. I have my programmable thermostat, my phosphate-free dishwasher liquid and my compost pile and I buy local and organic foods. I walk when I can and bike when I have to and drive when I have no other choice. Now it's up to you, government. Insitute a carbon tax. Impose harsher regulations. Make a real effort to invest in alternative technologies. And the same idea can then be presented to China. Look China, we've done our part. Our people take mass transit and don't use plastic bags. And our government has cracked down on the offenders and created a green country. Now it's your turn.

Of course, no one mentions the U.S., which is just as big a problem as China. But they are even scarier than China, so we keep our mouths shut.

And this is what Earth Day should be about. Not doom-and-gloom and rhetoric, not those people sending me emails about how hybrid cars are actually worse for the environment than Hummers, not complaints and apathy and the throwing up of hands. It should be about awareness and involvement. Involvement in the process and efforts that can be made to be a part of the solution. That's it.


  1. Hey Eric, yesterday on Earth Day I got an email from Home Depot - did you get it? It was about having a healthy lawn (by Scotts(R)) and one section encouraged readers to water their lawn TWICE A DAY for FOUR WEEKS. I thought it was pretty ironic to receive an email like that on Earth Day. I tried to contact Home Depot but their email goes to nowhere. If you look at the Home Depot website main page long enough (|793281257&gclid=CLLfgbbI8ZICFSJ3lgodajDH5g) you will see their thing about being eco-friendly and not selling pesticides and get rid of your gas lawn mower, while on the other hand they send out emails telling people to use petrochemical-based lawn fertilizer and water their lawn 56 times in 4 weeks.

    In the 8 years I've been in my house I have probably not watered my lawn 56 times!!!!!!! They should be encouraging people to use drought tolerant plants and clover on their lawns, not the usual spray poisons and water abundantly!

    No wonder the provincial govt has to legislate stopping the use of pesticides.

  2. Hello Eric,
    I must say,I enjoy reading you're blog & the Comments,for the most part.
    I really think my I.Q. increases a point or 2,after each time.
    Keep it up.
    Good Job,,,,Kirk.

  3. I didn't get that email - although that is pretty hilarious. No, my Earth day irony moment was when Steve Colwill brought in his lunch in one of those grocery store cloth bags. And we began talking about the cloth bags and what a good thing they were. And then he pointed out to me that those cloth bags, the ones you purchase at the grocery store to save the world from plastic bags...are made in China.

  4. Ah, another irony, however - the ban on pesticides extends only as far as regular people. The idea being that for chrissakes, it's just a lawn! Get over it. An idea with which I heartily agree. I can mow dandelions just as easily as I can mow lush golf course grass, and the kids can play on crabgrass just as well as on freshly laid sod. I wouldn't have bought pesticide anyway, what do I care? And yet the farmers are still allowed to use it (that's OK, they're farmers). The government is still allowed to use it (to save us from mosquitos while poisoning us with pesticides) courses! Golf courses are, apparently, a service essential enough to be exempt from the ban on pesticides. Golf courses! Because no one would play golf if the grass weren't pretty...come on! How much time does anyone really spend on the fairway anyway? I'd rather hit the ball from a patch of clover on the fairway than from a pile of twigs deep in the woods.