Sunday, April 2, 2006

Pest infestation

The London Fog on pesticide bylaws, February 14, 2006:

It remains to be seen for how long the peaceful enjoyment and use of private property will be suffered by the official property managers — but I am not sanguine. Following the fashion of the times, city council is increasingly flattered by the untiring attentions of activists who are always eager to surrender their outrage to lend the appearance of moral authority to council's pretensions of managerial authority.
The London Free Press, March 28, 2006:
London city council took the first step last night toward a bylaw controlling cosmetic use of pesticides by 2008.

[…] The new motion instructs staff and council's environment and transportation committee to develop a bylaw that phases out non-essential use of pesticides by September 2008.
This comes as no surprise. Once a device for regulatory control of fickle and reckless humanity is suggested, a vocal class of limited-human-agency activists will never let it go until it is done — and move on to the next limiting device.

Their efforts are always accompanied by flattering and overwhelming the pretensions to sound and upright governance of city council with affectations of moral common sense. However, one can easily detect and dismiss the activists' own moral pretensions by noting the absurdly artificial moral distinctions they make and the misdirections of their messages. Typical of the strategy, the gentleman on the right took the trouble to attend council's meeting to demonstrate his support for a pesticide ban with a sign reading, "I love my family more than my lawn." Innocuous sounding, the sentiment is beyond reproach and conveys a common-sense moral integrity and correctness to his demonstration. Two seconds of thought — more than many are willing to invest, apparently — reveals that the strategy is remarkably cheeky — perniciously deceptive, I would add — for two reasons. First, the demonstration attempts to appropriate a common sentiment and invest it with the force of the basis for material regulatory policy. Second… what the heck is he really talking about, anyway? Who really makes this kind of distinctions in the first place? "My family or my lawn… hmmm; gotta go one way or the other… must decide." And what forces him — in the absence of regulatory coercion — to make this distinction? He is and has always been absolutely free not to use pesticides on his lawn. Further, the distinction is revealed to be most readily absurd by the suggestion that people who use pesticides love their lawn more than their family. C'mon… does he really believe that?

Actually, he just might believe that. He did not trouble to go to city hall simply to express a ludicrously uncontestable but meaningless sentiment. His trouble was to apply a uniform control on everyone else consistent with a childishly sentimental faith that the restraints by which he governs his own behaviour is derived from parental authority — his authority on the matter is analogous to the childhood boast that "my daddy says…" Like the boast, he is mimicking the child's necessary substitution of reflexive and unexamined sentiment for undeveloped rationality and the child's belief that his playmates are and must be similarly governed. For the developmentally delayed adult, however, the belief is applied in the much more serious playground of political decision-making on the questions of applying force to actions. Movements to apply exclusive government agency to human action are usually founded on but always overcome by this belief.

For more evidence that the city's political arena imitates the playground, witness the competitive rationale for introducing a pesticide bylaw in London from Coun. Bill Armstrong who reintroduced the debate in council:
Armstrong, who supports a ban on cosmetic pesticide use, said London is one of the few municipalities without such a bylaw.

"For a municipality this size not to have some type of plan or a program, to me it doesn't make a lot of sense and it doesn't say a lot about our council that we can't come up with something that's workable."
This echoes the sentiment of Coun. David Winninger who also supports a pesticide ban and admitted last year that, at the end of the day, objective facts or reason did not support his position — so let's get on with it anyway:
Coun. David Winninger and others gave impassioned arguments supporting a ban. Winninger said the reason there's no scientific proof pesticides pose a health threat is because they may be tested only on animals.

He argued Dr. Graham Pollett, the city's medical office of health, along with various medical organizations support a ban on pesticides.

"We don't have all the answers, that's quite clear," Winninger said. "But that hasn't stopped other municipalities from passing bold legislation. If we really care about the people of London and our children and grandchildren, then every one of us ought to be voting against this bylaw."
  • In favour: Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco; Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell; Controllers Russ Monteith, Gord Hume and Bud Polhill; and councillors Fred Tranquilli, Bernie MacDonald, David Winninger, Susan Eagle, Sandy White, Judy Bryant, Ab Chahbar, Cheryl Miller, Joni Baechler, Harold Usher and Bill Armstrong
  • Opposed: Councillors Rob Alder, Roger Caranci and Paul Van Meerbergen
Update: Wolfvillewatch reports on a study of pesticide use in Nova Scotia that suggests the pesticide ban proponents are going after the wrong culprits and should be supporting bans on agriculture, swimming pools and municipalities! I second the motion on the latter! From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
Not surprisingly, agriculture was found to be the sector with the highest level of pesticide application, with 53 per cent of the total amount of chemicals used.

But the second-largest user of pesticides was a surprise, according to Andy Sharpe, science co-ordinator for the Clean Annapolis River Project.

The report says the next-largest user of pesticides by volume was homeowners, who use chemicals, like chlorine, to treat their swimming pools. They accounted for 24 per cent of the total active ingredients used.
24 per cent of the total pesticide applications by volume were estimated to be by residential users, but according to the domestic factsheet in the study itself,
Swimming pool and spa disinfectants made up the majority of this total (88%), followed by herbicides (8%) and insecticides (3%).
So, in other words, at least in Annapolis Valley, a maximum of 2.64 per cent of total applications by volume could even begin to be considered "cosmetic use" by residents. Returning to the study:
The third-largest user, at 12 per cent of the total, was municipalities, who use chlorine to treat sewage and waste water, according to the study. It notes that this activity is decreasing as municipalities introduce more environmentally friendly methods, like ozone treatment.


Brent Gilliard said...

Ironically, it may be the delayed legislation banning lead paint that gave your city councillors their unique... characteristics.

Not that I support the pesticide ban - nor understand the desire to spray and water one's lawn.

(p.s. I am very impressed by you rup-to-date blog roll. I suspect mine is more dead links than not.)

MapMaster said...

But we're ahead of the curve banning permanent markers and spray paint!

I personally wouldn't care to spray my lawn either unless I had a major infestation of councillors and activists on it.

Pietr said...

"That's the way Hooky!You're a soldier now!"