Thursday, September 21, 2006

Garbage is the New Religion

I've been thinking (always a bad sign) about those articles Christopher Hume wrote on Sweden. He went there to see how a northern, socialist country successfully manages their trash and their waterfronts. Sweden is an archipelago, and although Toronto is just a large city on an enormous lake, we share similar issues: how to hande trash generated by a large population and how to use our waterfront to create beauty in our cities.

The reason why looking at Sweden is so much more useful than Chicago, let's say, is that Sweden is more socialist than Canada, whereas Chicago is in a conservative country. The NDP are more left-leaning than our federal government, but they are a strong force in Toronto, so much so that they have no shame in bringing party politics into municipal elections, which are supposed to be party neutral. The reason we are often given for how we have mishandled our trash is environmental -- mostly an NDP and socialist bastion up til now -- and concern for our neighbours as in the Adams Mine fiasco -- a type of compassion the NDP touts as one they own because they are socialist. The NDP and their kind of ideology is the reason behind all the decisions that have led to our current trash situation, a situation in diametric contrast to that of Sweden's.

Sweden and Europe have tougher environmental laws, yet use incineration. Sweden, being socialist, does extensive consultations, especially with the neighbours, before allowing incinerators. Yet they have 30 of them, and the populace is happy. Sweden, being socialist, insists on corporations being good citizens and recycle their own obscene amounts of packaging. Here, that responsibility falls on our individual shoulders instead.

Thinking about it, I don't believe that it's socialism, or being left wing, that's got us into this mess. It's a different kind of ideology. It's one based on self-righteous judgement, whereby if you eat at McDonald's, if you create garbage, you're a sinner. If you're a sinner, then you must be punished and feel punished. Only by making your life a misery will you repent and not consume. This is not socialist ideology; it sounds more like fundamentalist religion transmogrified into municipal politics. Our politicians have found someone to blame, and they thunderingly point the finger at us. They will have us sort our own refuse and pick it up so infrequently that rats will congregate around us and we will drown in our own filth. They will ship it off to other towns and countries so that people will hate us. And they will continue to turn the screws until we scream in surrender and no longer consume.

If it was just about garbage and environmental responsiblity, we would have had a SUBBOR plant or a plasma-arc melter or a high-efficiency, modern incinerator by now.

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