Wednesday, November 16, 2011



I'm tired of environmentalists who figure they invented recycling.
I'm tired of money-sucking Hydro lecturing us on how to save electricity as it charges us more.
I'm tired of taxes wasted on solar, water and and wind schemes that don't benefit the public but only look good and make investors a lot of money.
If we could take the posturing out of the green movement, it might accomplish more and not just be a boom-and-bust kind of thing where the public loses interest every decade because it's offended at the hype and alarmed at the poor results.
For many Canadians who have survived to pensionhood, we husbanded our resources when we were young because we had to. We look back and remember when our cities and towns were a lot more efficient and wastage was considered something only the rich could tolerate. And many of them were only rich because they had saved.
You can get a little nuts when you consider the "improvements"  of today.
What's the sense of producing ethanol when it costs more energy than it saves,  drives up the price of food,  ruins outboards and benefits mainly giant corporations?
What was the sense of the tedious separation of  garbage in Toronto when it just ended up in the same bin?
Wasn't modern recycling just the creation of pop companies and grocery chainss so they didn't have to handle all those empty sticky bottles?
When I was a daily columnist, I took the first three years of a new environmental science course at U of T so I could peer inside the facts behind the activists of the various Probe organizations. I wasn't impressed. I kept thinking they're reinventing the wheel.
The good old days often weren't, even in the nostalgia of older Canadians.  But when it comes to eliminating waste and efficient living, we used to be kings. Of course they hadn't yet invented the throw-away society and the environmental movement.
As a boy, I lived in Chesley, a town of 1,800 near Owen Sound. We grew most of our vegetables on the empty lot beside the little house that was heated by a cook stove.  We got hot water by running the pipe through the firebox. The storm windows were heavy, like the winter underwear, and also worked.
We kept Leghorn chickens out back and ate those that languished at the bottom of the pecking order. There were no cultivators or power mowers. We burned leaves at the curb in one of the sweetest smells for a city streets. (They stopped the burning not because of  pollution but to protect the asphalt.)
Grandma had preserved the fruit we ate after every supper. When a jar went bad, this Baptist home fed it to the chickens and wondered why they staggered around.
Milk and bread were delivered to the door. You put the coupons in the milk box that every home had to house the bottles coming full and going back to be recycled before the word had been invented.
Delivery wagons were pulled by horses that knew the route better than the drivers and moved automatically. Groceries bought down on the main street were delivered free in a service paid for by all the grocery stores. Department stores delivered for free within a few days.
Everyone returned pop bottles for the deposit. Old newspapers were used to start fires and to line drawers. Magazines, especially the Geographic, were saved for neighbours or the hospital.
Holes in socks, sweaters and gloves were darned. Diapers were washed  for reuse. String was saved in big balls. The washing was dried on clothes lines and smelled great.
Houses had only one radio and later only one TV. There was one electric outlet per room. because there weren't labour-saving devices in every corner. Only one telephone receiver in a house and the poorer homes shared with a neighbour, often the same one with whom you shared a box in the central post office.
 You didn't have a home freezer but rented a locker in a freezer plant in the dairy which sold buttermilk for a nickel a pail.
Water came from the tap and no one carried water bottles. Some houses still had a well and pump. Baths were for Saturday night and showers only came as rain.
Rain water was collected in barrels under the down spouts. But we didn't get silly about it. One example of the modern stupidity over water conservation, when Ontario has more fresh water than most countries, is toilets that really don't flush very well. Another is the purchase of bottled water when there used to be public water fountains.  We had  Exhibition Place put an expensive system for capturing rain on the roof of the old Automotive Building when one of the larger lakes of the world is just across the road.
Of course the same Ex built an expensive wind turbine. When I voted against it at the board, I pointed out windmills have been around for centuries, there were hills around the world that had dozens of the renamed windmills,  and there was no need to have a costly demonstration downtown. At least they moved its site out of the lovely rose garden.
Fifty years ago, no politicians or bureaucrat wanting to survive would have backed such costly nonsense with toilets, windmills and water conservation.
When we were kids, we wrote mainly with pencils because paper was expensive and we used something called an eraser.  Pens were refilled with ink from bottles or ink wells. There were rumours of girls'  pigtails being dipped in the wells  on school desks, but in my school, the girls would have killed you.  Early ballpoints were avoided because they leaked.
You rode your bike to school or walked. No parents ferried their kids.  Parents walked or took the streetcar or bus to work. Few drove on short trips because in the winter away from block heaters, cars were tough to start.
At night no one went to a health club because they were too tired. Exercising by machine sounded like medieval torture. And no one ordered in because pizza hadn't been invented yet in Ontario. A restaurant meal was considered extravagant.
But by gum, the greenies say we were backwards. Yet we  used the compost heap and chickens to get rid of the kitchen scraps. The burn barrel and the wood stove took care of the rest. No one had costly garbage collection like today's featuring giant bins stuck in front of houses. . Housewives would have rebelled at being turned into garbage pickers.
It was only 50 years ago, just a wink in the eye of history, but we were just doing then what had been done for decades before. Except no one called it green. It was just considered really dumb to be wasteful.

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