Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Green Idealists vs the Real World

There’s unicorns, fairness & equity. Then there’s what’s possible.

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Professional environmentalists are all about ideals rather than reality. With notable exceptions, the same people who deplore fossil-fuels because of the carbon dioxide they emit, also oppose carbon dioxide-free nuclear power. That’s the only electricity source with a hope of scaling up fast enough to replace large amounts of fossil fuels, but most greens have declared it off the table.

In the grownup world, we need to go with what’s possible rather than our first choice. Significant progress is better than no progress.

It’s a similar situation where waste management is concerned. Over the years, greens have demonized landfills. We humans are capable of extraordinary engineering feats, but greens refuse to believe we have the brains, skills, or technology to construct landfills that won’t damage the environment. For example, see this video, laden with emotionally manipulative language:

Exhibit 3 is high-tech incineration. In the view of many greens, the only acceptable waste disposal ‘solution’ is recycling. In the real world, immense resources are consumed collecting, sorting, and cleaning this material. In the real world, the market for such material has always been precarious.

Two days ago, I discussed a report written for the Ontario government that explores how to transfer responsibility for curbside recycling programs to the private sector. Its author, David Lindsay, is a green idealist.

Rather than prioritizing high population centers, Lindsay insists the smallest, most remote communities must receive the same services as the largest. In his words:

The transition process must ensure there is no fragmentation or gaps in service…All communities must be transitioned fairly, regardless of their size, location, or density… [Section 6.2, bold added]

In his view, concentrating on the largest centers, learning how to do recycling there especially well is unfair.

What nonsense. I was raised in rural Northern Ontario. My husband grew up in the significantly more populated southern part of the province. Our childhoods were not the same, even though – as the daughter of an auto mechanic and the son of a steel worker – we were both working class kids.

My family’s telephone was a party-line shared amongst neighbours who could listen in on your conversations. His family’s telephone line was private. I had three television stations. He had several.

Today, people residing in small towns don’t have the same access to high speed Internet or MRI machines as those who live in large urban centers. Cannabis, which recently became legal in Canada, is regulated by each province. So far only 25 retail outlets have been approved here in Ontario. Equal access doesn’t apply in that case. (Take a look at the map appearing at the top of this post. Notice the large expanse of territory labelled ‘Ontario.’ Then notice where the stores are located.)

This begs an obvious question: what is so bleeping special about curbside recycling? Why does Lindsay insist on a standard in that context that isn’t the norm elsewhere in our lives?


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This entry was posted on August 14, 2019 by in ethical & philosophical.
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