More Ridiculous Ways to Save the Planet

Worth A Look, Climate, Frontier Centre

If you’re drinking a cold one as you drive along speed-bump-lined streets from the divorce court to your job as a bagpiper in a music hall lit with incandescent bulbs … Whew, there should be a special carbon tax just on you.

In the past six weeks, several studies — many of them funded by the federal government — have revealed how obsessed bureaucrats and environmentalists have become with carbon emissions and the lengths to which they are willing to go to micromanage our lives in the name of Mother Earth.

The least lunatic of these was reported last weekend in The Scotsman newspaper’s Scotland on Sunday supplement.

“Bagpipes are a threat to the environment,” claimed the headline. It seems Scots’ desire for a sweet, rich tone from their pipes has driven Africans to overharvest the blackwood forests that produce the wood from which the chanters, blowpipe and drones are made.

Actually, I only included this item here because bagpipes are funny (to everyone but Scots) and because when I first read the headline, I thought the story was going to say some environmental researchers had determined the carbon dioxide emitted from the instruments adds to global warming. (That would have been consistent with the ridiculous alarms sounded over beer fridges and speed bumps that are to follow.)

Over-harvesting of blackwood forests could be a real problem, provided environmentalists are not once again hysterically overstating the crisis. To their credit, the Scots have responded well.
According to Good Gifts, which bills itself as an “ethical present firm,” the gift of a bagpipe tree “is becoming an unlikely bestseller this Christmas.” For about $35, Good Gifts will plant 21 blackwood saplings in Africa and help “rebuild forests, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, generate income and keep musicians skirling.” Pipes-loving giftees get greeting cards telling them trees have been planted in their names.

Not quite so sensible was a study published in late October by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Canadian officialdom has become so seized by climate-change panic that even the nation’s mortgage loan insurer has felt the need to identify a planet-destroying problem, too: speed bumps.

It seems that when motorists are made to slow for speed bumps in residential neighbourhoods, they go faster between bumps — duh — revving their engines and thus producing more greenhouse gases.

There are lots of reasons to dislike speed bumps. The sprint between bumps is often more of a threat to children and pedestrians than the speeds motorists travel on un-bumped streets. They’re noisier, too, because vehicles are made to brake then accelerate, sometimes several times in a block.

But saving the planet is not a convincing argument for getting rid of these lowrise obstacles.
CMHC advanced the speed-bumps-asclimate-killers spin to sell its new urban planning idea, the “fused grid.” The plan makes some sense. It combines elements of the old boxes-and-rectangles street grid of the early 20th century with the currently favoured suburban layout of curving arterial roads feeding cul-de-sacs and looping crescents.

The fused-grid is squarer than modern suburbia. It keeps private yards peaceful by reducing the number of vehicle that pass in front of our homes, while still recognizing that we are creatures of the automobile. So it does not make driving inconvenient by choking all cars entering or leaving an neighbourhood onto one overcrowded street. Yet at the same time it seeks to make walking or cycling within the neighbourhood more convenient than driving, so once our commutes are done we might think to leave our cars in the garage until morning.

Isn’t that a good enough reason on its own to disparage the speed bump? Did CMHC really need to try to cash in on the climate-change zeal by claiming the asphalt mounds are adding to global warming, when they clearly cannot be a significant component?

Then there is the Natural Resources Canada study that suggested beer fridges — one in three of us have them — are a cause of climate change. One British analyst called a second fridge “a frivolous luxury” that the planet cannot afford. And one of the NRC study’s authors suggested a beer-fridge hand-in, similar to the handgun hand-ins some American cities have attempted (unsuccessfully) to get guns off the streets.

You know your experts have come to a weird place when they start equating beer fridges with firearms. It won’t be long before they start suggesting a fridge registry and home inspections. Oh, right, and divorce. Michigan State University researchers claimed this week that divorce hurts the planet because it is causing duplicate homes to be set up after a couple splits.

And there was a major British story about Toni Vernelli, an eco-activist who has had her tubes tied so she cannot bring any more little polluters into the world.

People who can think this way about speed bumps, fridges in the basement and self-sterilization are dangerous, because they will have no qualms about advocating the most intrusive laws and regulations in the name of honouring their new god, Earth.