Our City, Our Garbage, Our Shame

So our Toronto City Council have decided to piss off another community. Worse, they've decided to defile a farming community by both increasing landfill and increasing truck traffic from a few to a constant stream as they trundle our garbage along their roads, pumping diesel fumes and diesel noise into the air, compounding the traffic problems along suicide alley. The leachate from this landfill will seep into agricultural land, the land that feeds St. Thomas, London, and us. The methane gas the landfill will emit will pollute their air and increase our greenhouse gases. This is what Toronto Council, our Mayor David Miller and Jane Pitfield think is a solution to our garbage crisis, a crisis that's ready to explode because previous councils also put off till the next decade what they feared dealing with today. They've just followed that noble lead.

It's shameful.

And they did it without my -- or my fellow Torontonians' -- permission. They did this so that they could make the garbage crisis go away in this election. We talk about revitalizing our waterfront, yet how can we do that when the people that we elect cannot even wrap their heads around solutions that cities in Canada and all over the world, even in socialist countries, use successfully?! Art Eggleton started the culture of inertia, in which doing nothing or foisting the problem onto somebody else was seen as a good thing, certainly preferable to solving our own problems with creativity and courage.

It's shameful.

How dare we re-elect these bozoes, who make our lives more difficult, not only in our homes, but also in our reputation. What are we all so afraid of? What is wrong with us, as Christopher Hume asked in the Saturday Star?

He went to investigate how Sweden did it, that is, solve their garbage problem and revitalize their waterfront. Sweden is a socialist country, with cradle-to-grave governmental care. They are more NDP than the NDP, but even they understand that landfill -- even with diversion -- is the worst way to handle our garbage. Three decades ago, the Swedish residents in Malmo feared incineration, but they had guts -- unlike us and the people we elect -- and went for it. They went for it because the alternative, landfill -- revolting, stinking, polluting landfill -- is worse. Their incinerator emits exhaust that is 98% water. Last time I checked the leachate from landfills is not 98% water nor is water harmful to us. We don't even siphon off the methane from our old landfills to power vehicles, like they do in Sweden. But incinerators do have one powerful pollutant. Sweden's 30 incinerators produce one gram of dioxin per year. Well, I can see why that would scare Toronto councillors and idealogues.

"It's now so clean the locals didn't make a peep when the most recent expansion was launched last year." Christopher Hume, The Toronto Star, Saturday, September 16, 2006.

Their incinerator powers 40% of homes in Malmo, provides 40% of local power. Forty percent folks! Toronto generates absolutely no electricity for ourselves. Zero. Nada. Nothing. If anything happens to the grid around us, we'd be stuck. We'd have no local source of electricity to suck on. The main engine of Canada would be dead in the water. And why? Because we didn't have the guts to elect councillors who would solve our garbage problem. Because we don't see our garbage as a resource. Instead we see it ideological terms, something so bad that we need to make collection as onerous as possible and disposal as polluting as possible in oder to make ourselves feel better about it.

We all -- city councillors, Mayor, Torontonians -- need courage. We are completely and utterly devoid of it and an innovative spirit.

Courage would be returning frequency of pick-up back to twice per week. Courage would be that all the garbage would be picked up on every collection day. Courage would be immediately designating the next six months to review the waste-to-electricity technologies available to us. Courage would be picking one of them at the end of six months and immedately implement it. Courage would be leading the citizenry of Toronto to understand and accept that option. Courage would be making amends with all the people and communities we've pissed off by shipping our dirty, stinking, illness-making garbage to them or through them. Courage would be acting not talking. And in the end courage would be electing a brand-new city council.

We have no business being ashamed of our elected representatives' quick underhanded vote last night if we are not prepared to toss the whole lot out and start afresh.

How can we be world class (a term I hate but many seem to admire), how can we be the main engine of Canada, if we cannot even follow the lead of Guelph, Edmonton, Halifax, and Malmo Sweden, to name but a few of the towns who've long since solved their garbage problems, without making their citizens' lives a misery? We do not become world class by building opera houses and being able to attract a pile of Hollywoodites to the Toronto International Film Festival. We become world class when we lead the way in municipal governance, things like making garbage a resource, not an ideology, creating our own electricity in innovative ways, creating a beautiful city one that is a pleasure to live in, saving our heritage and embracing the modern, serving our public transit needs and making Torontonians happily get out of their cars. When we are three decades behind a socialist country, when our environmental laws are not even in the same league, we are not even on the radar of being world class. We are actually slipping so far behind that an exodus from this city will start, if it hasn't already. I'm talking about an exodus of residents, not just businesses. I know this because when I, a staunch Torontonian who couldn't be pried out of this city with a crowbar, starts pondering where to move to outside of Toronto, then others are thinking that way too.

We live in a time of learned helplessness, when we've been made to believe that one person can do nothing, or if we attempt something we'll only be slapped back, so why even try. But our votes in the aggregate will make a change that can stun the country. If each of us use our one vote to elect a new representative, if each one of us did that in every riding, then we'd make change that would excite us.

We are not helpless. We have the vote.


CyberCelt said…
Go to the meetings. Do some research and present city/county/precinct leaders with copies of the data. Get a public comment on the record of the meeting. Bring friends. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.

Good luck!