PLANTING A SEED
Rooftop gardens may be a pie-in-the-sky concept, but going greener can start with small steps
According to a slew of recent polls, most Canadians think it's silly that marijuana remains illegal.
Nevertheless, our fearless leaders in Ottawa tend to act like sneaky kids trying to conceal a noon-hour spliff when they talk about reducing the penalties for getting caught with a bag of weed.
The first time the feds rolled out a decriminalization proposal, all Canadian eyes were diverted by Quebec and the 1995 sovereignty referendum.
On that extremely tense October night, Parliament could have voted to annex North Dakota and nobody would have noticed until Christmas.
The latest of several plans to make marijuana less of a major legal nightmare was floated earlier this week, when our American neighbours -- who continue to fight the War on Drugs with as much zeal as their War on Terror -- were a little preoccupied.
Terrified of offending the U.S., the Liberal government wisely figured Election Week was a good time to reignite the decriminalization debate.
Little did they expect criticism for a much more benign proposal involving leafy green stuff: environment czar Stephane Dion's plan to put a garden on every rooftop.
In case you missed the item, Canada's former Minister of Intergovernmental Meddling actually suggested something noble. He wants the federal government to transform the roofs of flat-topped public buildings into fields of green.
There was immediate reaction from the enviro-hostile National Post, whose editorialists -- who don't even flinch at relaxed pot laws anymore -- suggested Dion leave the horticulture to elementary school students or something just as dismissive.
But rooftop gardens have many benefits, not all of them environmental. The foliage helps scrub smoggy city air by putting oxygen back into the atmosphere and sucking up greenhouse gases. The soil prevents wear-and-tear on buildings, streets and sidewalks by sucking up concrete-destroying moisture.
The entire garden system also helps insulate a building, which slashes heating costs and by extension, more greenhouse gas emissions. As an added benefit, employees of garden-carpeted buildings have a place to hang out and maybe even tend to during the rare moments when they're not being busy little federal bureaucrats.
"You cannot easily be a leader if you don't lead by your own example," Dion told the Canadian Press in a rare display of practical idealism by an elected official. But most Canadians can't follow Dion's lead. Most homeowners barely have the time, skills or money to maintain a lawn-top garden, never mind performing radical surgery on their roofs.
But that's not the point. Our gung-ho, possibly even naive, new Environment Minister simply wants Canadians to think about modest ways to live slightly greener lives. As a first-time homeowner who is neither handy nor wealthy, I can relate to this.
I often fantasize about making all kinds of enviro-friendly improvements to my inner-city home, like replacing the ancient boiler with a geothermal heating system. The reality: The cost of this single renovation would equal the assessed value of my entire hovel.
Instead, I've made a checklist of FIVE REALLY EASY WAYS TO BE A TINY BIT MORE GREEN:
The following steps can be taken by any lazy shlub, without enduring significant financial pain or lifestyle inconvenience. Consider it advice from one lazy shlub to another.
1. Rotting makes the world smell nicer. Recycling alone won't make more room in the landfill. Buy or build a compost bin and you'll be amazed how little garbage you'll leave on the corner or in the autobin every week.
2. Get your name off the list. Air Miles seems like a great deal, until the junk starts filling up your mailbox. Whenever you sign up for any reward plan -- or donate to a charity, or enter a contest -- make sure you check the "opt out" box to head off a sudden influx of unsolicited paper. 3. One car is good enough. Yeah, easy for me to say -- I don't have kids to ferry around to tai chi class. But it's amazing how convenient it is for two working people to get by using one motor vehicle, with a little help from your feet and public transit.
4. Buy less. At the risk of sounding like a preachy anti-capitalist, you really don't need much more stuff. It takes a tremendous amount of natural resources to produce household electronics and other modern consumer goods.
Consume less, and you'll have more room in your wallet for the stuff you really need.
5. Buy local. Supporting small business isn't just a good for the community. Buy locally grown or produced products and you cut down on greenhouse emissions by reducing the need to transport goods across as far a distance.
Of course, none of these actions are going to stall the continuing abuse of the planet by the pest species known as humanity. But it would be nice if Canada's green reputation could stem from something other than being kind to people who smoke weed.