Mowing down the climate change problem

Published in October, 2021 Boomers & Beyond

By Terry Carroll
“Why rich Canadians are all-in for the Liberals this time” blared a headline in the National Post nine days before the federal election in September. In part, the story said, “Among Canadians earning more than $200,000 a year, the single issue most likely to drive them to the Liberals was climate change. Earn between $40,000 and $60,000, meanwhile, and the issue virtually drops out of contention.”
Having been in the $40,000 to $60,000 bracket for most of my working life, and headed there again when I retire next year, I can understand why lower-income people aren’t as focused on climate change as the Richie Richs of the world. The more time you spend keeping the wolf away from the door, the less bandwidth you have for studying the longer-term habitats of wolves.
And climate change is a one big, complicated, lupine creature.
Here’s one sentence from the 2021 Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “The report provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”
Right there, you can see how tough it is for Canadians working two paid jobs – or working one paid job for eight hours a day and another six hours at home raising a family – to pay the report much heed. The reaction tends to be, “It’s a world-wide problem. A solution is decades away. Right now, all I want is some sleep.”
Federal election campaigns aren’t always helpful. There’s an understandable tendency for candidates to say whatever they believe most of the people want to hear, while avoiding gravel-tossers. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty, politicians tend to speak in broad terms about big problems they say only their party can solve.
However, let’s give them and their $200,000+ supporters their due. Some things can only be done by the big guys.
In addition, there’s a lot those of us in the middle or lower end of the scale can accomplish, starting in our own back yards.
Apparently running a gasoline-powered mower for an hour can produce as much air pollution as driving a well-tuned automobile 550 km.
Solutions are as close as your local hardware store’s order desk: electric mowers, or, better yet, reel mowers. Best of all: turn your lawns into naturalized or rewilded spaces instead of fence-to-fence grass. The monarch butterflies will love you.
As for our country neighbours with your love affair with the riding lawn mower, do you really have to trim so much roadside space? Perhaps it’s time to stop. So, here’s a suggestion for municipal councils: A bylaw that says the municipality, and only the municipality, is allowed to cut grass on the property it owns, meaning, roadsides, ditches, etc. Think how much carbon we could stop emitting into the atmosphere, and how many more butterflies we could support, if these publicly owned spaces were naturalized.
Suggestions like these are only the beginning. Bet you didn’t know that the Township of Southwold has a Zero Waste Committee. Just try taking a plastic fork or water bottle to the Keystone Complex in Shedden. You might get a tongue-lashing or feel something like a gravel pellet hit your shoulder.
Upper class, middle class or lower class, we can all make changes in the effort to mow down climate change. Let’s get at it.