Saturday, December 11, 2010



Current commentary: I've never really understood how foolish and self-serving we can seem as human-beings. And I can't discount myself as one. The green movement is a privilege. As obvious a point as this may seem, it is amazing the number of people who fail to appreciate the fact, never mind the irony. If you do not have a dishwasher or an expresso machine, you don't need to use it less often to cut down on energy consumption. If you send your recylables to China, it then becomes their desperately poor natives who must cope with the toxic leftovers of first-world consumption. If you don't have the money to buy a product, you don't have to worry about it's environmental friendliness or what to do with it when you're done. I remember being in Budapest once where I noticed a large number of worn men wandered the roadways picking up bits of metal and glass. They weren't city workers which is what you would expect. I remember thinking at the time that poverty is the truest expression of recycling. At that time I suppose I became an apologist for my country, for my own privilege to be sipping red wine at a road-side stand while they scrambled to survive in their post-communist world. The two solitudes of Chelsea may have nothing to do with English and French, but of the rich and poor... a sad microcosm of the first-world we live in... the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and the impossible gaping chasm between the two... sometimes acutely evident in the rising affluence of Chelsea. The poor have always hung their clothes outside to dry. They have always bought second-hand clothes. They have always kept the thermostat down. Sometimes the green movement seems more like a trendy hobby of "poverty for the wealthy" where they get to pick and choose their sacrifices. The poor have no such luxury. Watching the antics of zealot-like supporters of the green movement living in monster homes here is, at least, a source of amusement to the poor. There is always that.


I’m one of those people who actually reads the Chelsea Express, the newsletter sent to residents on a monthly basis from the Municipality. I find it interesting and if the truth be known, I’ve often found it downright helpful with all its tips and what not.

Why, I remember that time when they stopped taking our garbage every week and decided to do it every two weeks. The hints they gave us were beyond compare, like that one that told us to put our garbage in the freezer until pick-up day. I tell you. These are tips that dreams are made of. And its all there for free in a monthly newsletter.

Take the latest issue. Right there, smack dab on the front page not far below a picture of the Mayor receiving yet another environmental award for sustainable development is yet another helpful directive from our powers that be… Well now, it would have been hard to miss the article. It has a title called “Idling… think about it!”

So I did.

And you know, I’m a little confused. Now, far be it for me to suggest that there is anything wrong with the concept of idling your car for only 30 seconds in winter. If this is what needs to be done to save the world, heck, I’m all for it. Bring on the idler police. Bring on the committees. Bring on the bylaws. Let’s time our neighbors as they idle. Who could have anything against saving the world?

So I tried it, of course.

I might have caused an accident. I’m not sure of course. I couldn’t see really. Don’t get me wrong. I scraped the windshield with my new power purple-handled scraper from Wal-Mart. I turned on the defrost. There was condensation freezing all over the inside and outside of the window. But darnit. I only had 30 seconds to get that car in motion. So I held my breath. I got all the way to Hull before I actually could see out the window. I figure I must be doing something wrong. Why would the municipality tell me to drive all the way to Hull with a windshield full of ice? That’s not like them.

Then it dawned on me. How foolish can I be? I just didn’t think the whole darn thing through. “Think” about it. So I figure anybody who can preach a 30-second idle on a Quebec winter morning has got to be living with a heated garage. Mind you, I’ll have to get a bank loan to do all this. But then I’m sure the bank manager understands that if I cut my idle time down by five minutes per day I can help the Municipality reduce its carbon emissions by 2.32 tonnes annually. In fact, I’ll put that down on the loan application. Who would say no to that?

7 January 2004 Valley Voice

PAINTING: Rose Village / S. Shawcross / Oil on masonite / 17 x 15 / SOLD


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