April 2010 – Goldenrod Part 2 – The City is out of whack…

SCOOP THEORY 101 –
this is no time to veg out even though City Hall has.
We cover it all: from life and death to everything in between
It’s spring and The Scoop smells the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) emitting from the threatlands of City Hall. ML&S will be revving up their efforts to cut the grass and weed out the weeds with a fresh crop of natural gardeners ripe for the picking.
The Scoop understands their situation. You have to pity those at City Hall; they don’t get out much. At City Hall, they don’t see any groundcover taller or denser than carpet. They don’t see anything wilder or more entertaining than a free-for-all that passes for a council meeting. They’ve been numbed – Numb and Number. It’s easy to see why they can’t relate. City Hall is definitely not a natural environment and this is the reason that they cannot comprehend gardeners, particularly native plant gardeners. They’ve forgotten their connection with the natural world which includes the citizens that they misrepresent. So, either we have to enlighten them and enheighten them or we will have to secede from Toronto City Hall.
The Enlightenment
We’ll have to remind them of the world out there and our rights and responsibilities evoked in the Preamble of the Environmental Bill of Rights, S.O. 1993, CHAPTER 28,
as long as we are part of the Province of Ontario:
“The people of Ontario recognize the inherent value of the natural environment.
The people of Ontario have a right to a healthful environment.
The people of Ontario have as a common goal the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
While the government has the primary responsibility for achieving this goal, the people should have means to ensure that it is achieved in an effective, timely, open and fair manner.”
The environment is defined as “the air, land, water, plant life, animal life and ecological systems of Ontario.” Land refers to “surface land not enclosed in a building, land covered by water (which, for greater certainty, includes wetland) and all subsoil.” City Hall is an enclosed building with no sign of life or any semblance of a life support system. It’s just a hollowed out hull…call it City Hull. Stuck in the bunker with their siege mentality, no wonder they can’t relate to the natural world. Those in City Hull have spent far too much time indoors; the stuff that passes for air inside City Hull is a toxic mix, re-circulated particularly in Council. With some of the decisions made you have to wonder what they’ve been inhaling on a particular day. It’s time for them to open up, clear the air and to get outside for some fresh air.
The Enheightenment
The Scoop recognizes that the fear of heights is central to the whole dilemma with the City. The provincial government should have seen this coming. They enacted the Places to Grow Act; not realizing the confusion it would create. The language was all plants, e.g., “grow”, “nodes of intensification”, etc. The province was referring to increased density of development to accommodate the influx of people migrating to Toronto and to protect the greenbelts outside of Toronto from the surge of humanity. The City interpreted it as only referring to intensifying the development of buildings. Meanwhile, citizens were expecting increased height and density in gardens throughout the City. The plan was laudable. The increase in growth of garden plots in the City would have created additional corridors to facilitate the movement of plants and animals. Combined with the ravine lands, we would have a more contiguous mosaic of habitat and a boost for the local environment.
But the City has a fear of natural height, density and thick growth. It originates from a primal fear of nature and anything wild. Thick vegetation of tall grass and dense undergrowth evokes visions of snakes, and other predators. It evokes the stuff of lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The fear of not being able to see everything hidden is the stuff of Heart of Darkness. It is claustrophobia in the age of open concept; a lack of transparency. Fear of loss of control – everything growing out of compliance – can’t mandate or control living things as easily as the size of an outdoor sign.
Does it translate into a general fear of all vegetation? Certainly it must. A few years ago a *TV commercial embodied the fear of vegetation with the depiction of a woman screaming and recoiling at the sight of a falling leaf. The sheer horror on her face as autumn loomed must have instilled fear in others. Confronting one’s own mortality? The symbolism was heavy; shades of Ingmar Bergman. Let us relate that to bylaws that require the removal of dead vegetation – dead, diseased, decayed or damaged appendages (branches); remove the cuttings (the evidence of fresh death); raking leaves to clear them away, to be hidden in large paper bags, out of sight and out of mind. It is really a fear of death. The cycle of life and death plays over and over, yet it is too messy for those at City Hall to contemplate – thick, lush, excessive growth in spring through fall and then all those leaves to clean up afterwards. How can you keep up the charade of “Toronto the Beautiful” with all the debris produced?
*The Scoop will not condone a product placement without a generous donation to NANPS, so we will not specifically identify a product or company.
Word Associations
Part of the problem is the terminology being banded about. This whole grass and weed thing has connotations to something illegal. You’ve been implicated in the drug trade by growing grass and weeds on your property. You are in possession of an illegal substance like marijuana. That could be the reason that the City has worked themselves into such a froth. The terms are interchangeable. Combine grass and weed with other gardening terms – anything with pot – plant pots, container pots, potting sheds for processing, potager. Anything connected to grow-ups in the gardening sphere sounds too close to grow-ops. All the gardening paraphernalia could be used for producing marijuana, like greenhouses and so that is why they are on high alert. Anything high…getting high…like in height…as in height of vegetation must be mixed up in the seedy drug world. Your natural garden plot is just a grow-op…and they take offence when your grow-up has grown-up and you are growing it right under their noses…noses that get out of joint, hence, the visceral reaction by bylaw enforcers.
It doesn’t help that there are TV programs depicting the lifestyle, e.g., Weeds. But the various governments use the terms themselves, Even the provincial government is in on the action. There’s the LCBO and then there’s the WCA – Weed Control Act with “joint” jurisdictions. The City has joint task forces and joint committees. So the natural garden exemption is really a licence to have a grow-up and you know how stringent the rules are for those.
How would the City control the fallout? What is the plan for damage control? What is a control freak to do? This unnatural fear of vegetation could evolve into very strict control of plants through retailers. Vendors would have to post a disclaimer in their ads, much like those advertising outdoor fireplaces and garage storage units that sell at a well-known chain of stores (donation first, please): “check with your local municipality regarding bylaws about this item’s use.” Plants that tend to get bushy and unruly would be strictly managed. To play it safe, government would heavily subsidize the production of fake plants/silk plants, i.e., plants that never die or drop foliage…they just fade away. All would be under the control of the Plant Control Boards or the PCBs.
Scoop after thoughts
Very interesting note – another definition of weed is black mourning clothes, similar to the kind The Trim Reaper and the rest of The Weed Whackers wear to work.
I guess at NANPS we might have to scrap our own June LGW campaign – the one in which we were going to advertise a grow upper-tunity to encourage native plant growers. Sweet…grass!
The Scoop Plant-spiracy Theory – homegrown attempts to outlaw vegetation
From the 2009 LGW press release:
“Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.”
We are expected to believe this? Perhaps as long as you aren’t green!
What the whole thing is coming down to is City Hall’s attempt at either absolute control of or the process of elimination of any plant material in the City through every means possible: bylaws, invasive critters, neglect, development practices, and PCBs.
Toronto started it all with the ire directed towards weeds and the need to control them. First it was noxious weeds, then local weeds and anything that looked inappropriate or “weedy”; even the word itself. They have directed their energy towards eliminating invasive shrubs and trees, phasing out any shrubs and hedges through the fences bylaws and evergreens through sheer neglect. How much worse can it get?
Ok, then….we need some strong medicine. The Scoop has to call in reinforcements…