Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stupid Morons Wrecking the Environment

It's the second (or is it the third?) consecutive smog day in southern Ontario and I am mad as hell. By late afternoon the general ickiness of the air was joined by a nauseating chemical odor.

It's not even June yet. Last year we had nearly two months of smog days.

I don't live in a big city or an industrial area. Neither do the people up north in cottage country who also regularly get smog days now. We in S-Ont get smog from a variety of sources:

* Ontario's coal-fired electrical generators, which the Ontario government has been desperately trying to close down but cannot because Ontario citizens, despite years of government-sponsored initiatives, keep increasing their electrical consumption
* our own stinking cars and gas lawn mowers
* industry that was strategically located along the US border to send pollution out of the US

We have all this nice civilized talk about Kyoto while the majority of people are doing NOTHING for the environment. I paid a lot of money to install a fancy ceiling fan with a thermostat so I don't have to use air conditioning, but if there are brown-outs my fan will fail along with all those air conditioners set to freezer temperatures.

It seems that no amount of public education programs are going to work. We need laws and monetary disincentives. Why are they so long in coming? Some areas have outlawed vehicle idling and home herbicide use: why hasn't everyone? (Why hasn't Waterloo?) Why aren't we imposing a $5,000 pollution tax on SUVs and trucks? The pollution they produce is costing the health care system plenty. Why aren't we tacking pollution taxes on gas lawn mowers (which produce far, far more pollution than cars)? We need to consider a graded electricity price that increases after you pass a certain limit. We need to decide that we aren't going to put up with this crap anymore and do something about it.

I work in the R&D park on the University of Waterloo campus. UW just built a building there with the second largest green roof in Canada, and they have been championing their brilliant environmental initiative. But around that building are a hundred acres of bare dirt that used to be corn fields. For a fraction of the cost of their show-off roof they could have planted trees and shrubs that would have done far more for our environment than a small patch of native grasses on top of a building. Sometimes it just seems that we're not serious about really doing something pragmatic to help the environment. It's all hot air and hypocrisy.

(My own hipocrisy: I am pretty good on most counts environmentally, but I love to travel by plane, and that's a huge polluter. So I can't cut myself out of the stupid moron category either.)



Carrie said...

I understand your frustration. But - there's always a but isn't there? - a pollution tax on vans and trucks and SUVs is unfair and will hurt more than it helps. Many businesses use these very vehicles to do business. So an extra cost to them will be passed down to consumers in higher fees. And let's not forget the handicapped, who require larger vehicles like that to function in today's society, otherwise they end up shut-in with little to no independence.

In all of this, I find it incredible that pressure is constantly put on the average citizen, when big business and government is taking little to no responsibility. The main culprits are the energy plants, factories, and other industrial facilities. If they start cutting their contribution to the problem, then I think the average citizen would follow suit.

Recently, I saw a documentary about environmentally safe energy sources utilized in Iceland etc. I can't remember all the countries but it was very interesting. Most of their city buses run on solar power. Most of their energy source is from the sun or from water in the ocean. All of it is completely non-toxic and does not put pollutants into the environment. I don't understand why North America can't follow their example. They would have to start small but at least they could start somewhere.

Graeme said...

Note that (I believe) the "definition" of what a smog day is was changed last year, which is why we had so many more than previous years. Many days that were considered smog days last year would not have been the year before.

I always shook my head when I took my car in (and paid $35) to get the Drive Clean test, and looked at the numbers afterwards to see how my car passed with flying colours. (For example, some measure of toxicity has to be less than 1500 ppm in order to pass - my car's measurement was 9. If my car was 150 times worse, it would still pass.) Then on the way out of the testing facility, I'd see a city bus or large dump truck or something putting more black smoke into the air in 2 minutes than my car does in 2 months. Shouldn't these big vehicles be subject to the same clean air laws, since they're dumping a heck of a lot more pollution than any car?

I agree with the previous commenter - business and industry produce far more pollution and waste far more energy than private citizens. I work at a software company that has a lab with many computers (gotta be over 400), all of which are powered on 24/7. I can bump the thermostat in my house in the summer, and make sure all my lights are turned off, and so on and so forth, and the energy savings wouldn't scratch the surface of what my company would save if we turned off some of those test machines on the weekend.

One other comment - my gas lawn mower runs for about 30 minutes a week, and only between May and October. Even if it produces four times as much pollution as a car, you'd have to drive your car for all of an hour a week (less than 9 minutes a day) all year to produce the same amount of pollution. Is that really worth a pollution tax, considering the aforementioned trucks and buses?

s.b. said...

A plane with three hundred people in it is probably better than three hundred cars with one person in them.

Anonymous said...

Check out this article. ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13039234/from/ET/ ) Seems there is a more sinister reason as to why the conservatives are axing Kyoto. This governement seems hell bent on furthering Albertas agenda. Kyoto would require having to restrict the oil sands. Also it is more apparent why Ontario has lost the half billion dollars that was to be used to move from coal to cleaner energy sources. Anyone remember Alberta's delegation to Ontario over the coal it tried to unload on Ontarians? Well we said no, and now the conservatives have said no to our clean air. I guess without that funding we will need more coal in the future and I wonder who from?

EX-NDIP said...

I live in White Rock, BC . . . where the fresh air blows in off the Pacific every day.
Remember the 1960's in Los Angeles . . . big city, many cars, industry, sitting in a bowl = pollution.
What have Canadian cities done in the last 40 years . . . tried very hard to be like LA . . . bring in more people, more industry, more cars . . .
Result . . . now they are like LA . . . the sad part of the story is did they actually think the outcome was going to be different . . . in Canada?????
Sooo dumb . . . . of course the Natural Governing Party . . . the LPC . . . has rulled for most of the last 40 years . . . what have they done, I mean besides signing Kyoto?

The Scandinavian countries lead the world in technology . . . everything from Off-Shore Oil, Shipbuilding, Enviro Technologies like garbage disposal and cleanups.
The Swedes and Norwegians also have a capable navy . . . with Stealth Coastal Patrol Ships. We of course have used British Submarines . . . sooo typically Canadian.
The Swedes built all the footings for the Confederation Bridge. Anyone been to Copenhagen and seen the big bridge to Malmo Sweden . . . I have driven across it . . . awesome.
Here is BC we are still trying to figure out how to build a ferry that works.
Of course the Scandinavian countries also have the best educated populations on the planet, unlike Canada where we have been dumbing down our youth for decades . . .