Earth Day

April 22, 2024

Happy Earth Day!

On the weekend I read environmental coverage in The Globe and Mail and some of it slightly depressed me. For example, according to the Globe about 70% of clothing is now made out of plastic, up from about half in the year 2000. The story suggested that, with people turning to electric cars, clothing is the new cash cow for the oil and gas industry. We are all buying more clothing than we used to, much of it junky fast fashion make from synthetic fabrics. Also scientists are finding micro-plastics in peoples’ arteries.

But the paper also published an encouraging story about a guy in Vancouver who planted a Douglas fir tree.

On Sunday I took our dogs, Coco and Rook, for a walk in High Park. I used to drive to the park but I realized that it’s just as easy, and more enjoyable, to take the TTC. Also it is better for the planet. The College streetcar was unusually crowded at about 10:30 a.m. Turns out lots of people were headed to High Park to enjoy the cherry blossoms. Rook sat next to a young man at the back of the streetcar. I think the guy was a bit unfamiliar with dogs but he smiled when Rook sat on his foot. Rook likes to sit on peoples’ feet.

The park was crowded. Strolling through the park I met a husband and wife I’ve known a long time. The woman said, “I didn’t know you were a West-ender.” There was some sort of weird competitive edge in her voice, almost as though she felt I was an intruder in her private park– which is a bit odd in a 200-hectare park.

“I got here before you did,” I replied, because that couple lived Across the River (gasp!) in Riverdale until maybe 20 years ago.

“But I thought you were more Trinity, Dufferin Grove, that area,” she persisted. Jeez!

“Sure. I’m by Dovercourt Road. I took the streetcar,” I said.

“Okay, we just wanted to make sure you weren’t one of those cherry blossom people,” she said dismissively.

Holy cow. How about we lighten up a little? I am just taking my dogs for a walk in the park here. Plus it bothered me when she kind of put the Cherry Blossom People in a category; fair-weather friends to Mother Nature who come to the park once a year… how tacky!

I don’t feel that way. As far as I’m concerned, any excuse that brings thousands of people, who could be at a mall or in their house, out to the forest or out to the park, is a great excuse! God bless the Cherry Blossom People!

I didn’t take any cherry blossom photos because lord only knows there are plenty of people taking those. So here is a photo of the flowering Norway maple tree in our back yard.

By the way by specifying the species of maple in this photo, I’ve opened another can of worms. Norway maple is an evil invasive that is colonizing and taking over the Toronto ravines. The tree does not play well with others, and prevents other native species such as oak and pine or sugar maple from regenerating. It’s a huge problem, and even in High Park, I noticed on my visit, foresters have cut down a lot of Norway maples and left their trunks to rot in the forest, to clear space for domestic species of trees and shrubs.

At our house we’ve decided to let these maples thrive because of all the ecosystem services that they provide. Norways are habitat for birds and squirrels. They soak up rainwater. They store carbon. They emit oxygen. They filter the air. They look nice. They shade our house and reduce our cooling bills.

Overall, I have decided that I can’t slash my wrists worrying about environmental calamity. There are too many great things going on. We have a prime minister who mostly sticks to his guns about the carbon tax, which I wholeheartedly support. If Pierre Poilievre has a better idea to slow global warming, let’s hear it. Plus people are switching to renewable energy. My son and I plan to plant 25 balsam fir and 25 fraser fir on our farm this weekend. And countries are meeting in Ottawa this week in hopes they can sign an agreement to cut global use of plastic.

Together we can restore the health of our planet. It’s a big job; we can begin by enjoying the great outdoors.