Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The urban jungle

Pressing issues at the top of the London Free Press today…

It may be less than accurate to dignify a $350,000 modeling estimate based on a small sample size as a "census" but, in the important respect that the information will be used to rationalize future regulatory controls on trees, otherwise known as an "urban forest strategy," the term is absolutely appropriate. Coun. Joni Baechler, who appears in a supporting role for the tree survey, voted in favour of a recommendation to Council last fall that it request staff to "prepare a report on the steps needed for a bylaw that would govern trees cut by a homeowner."

As with the ordinary definition of a census, the importance of accuracy is secondary to the objective. The rationalizations, and indeed the conclusions, of politicians like Baechler are already anticipated and will not depend on the truth of the data — which can be picked, classified, analyzed and induced into conclusions in a myriad of ways to support any claim in the inscrutable terms under which necessity will be defined — but simply on its existence as a supposedly objective and neutral dataset. That it is objective, neutral and true in the first place is merely to be accepted on the basis that it sits on somebody's credentials. That any conclusions drawn by politicians will be objective, neutral and true beggars credibility.