Wayne Roberts; John Bacher; Brian Wilson. Toronto: Get a Life Publishing 1995
If it has dawned on you that no one is coming to your personal rescue or to the rescue of the planet, this book is for you. Get a Life, with its denigrating title, is about how you can get a job, stop subsidizing useless government programs, and clean up the environment, all at the same time.
The 67 mini-chapters cover topics such as building fuel-efficient homes, growing and marketing herbal remedies for such ills as high blood pressure, and advocating zero net impact environmental laws.
The present un-green government policies are criticized: "Almost all government giveaways go to companies that endanger human and planetary health." The accusations are backed up with facts: in 1992 Ottawa subsidized heavy oil projects with $3.5 billion.
A new view of pollution is necessary. "Pollution is resources going up in smoke; Canada can't be competitive when we each use the equivalent of 45 barrels of oil a year, while Japan outperforms us with just 16." The answer? Use ethanol fuel from the 14 million hectares of switch grass grown on the prairies.
Pollution is not only money and resources down the drain, it is also sky high medical costs, the book points out. For those near The Great Leaks, the news is bad-more than 178 toxic chemicals are in our soup, 15% cause cancer, and 50% contribute to birth defects. The government has been good at keeping secrets such as those, but the authors have been remarkable at exposing them.
The book is not a Green Party tome, but member Jim Harris is commended for his research for The Financial Post on empowering workers to shift business practices into line with their personal ethics.
There could be a free lunch in replacing the present ego-system with an ego-system. Downtown Toronto could be cooled in summer, the book claims, with cool water from Lake Ontario, at a fraction of the present costs and CFC pollution. Rich Krechowicz of Calrich Eco Services of Oshawa installs water-savings equipment at no cost to the consumer, taking his costs out of future water savings. The theory that protecting the environment must cost extra is turned upside-down.
The book brings in proven ideas from other countries. In Sweden, there are contests for the most energy efficient equipment to get away from nuclear and hydroelectric power without using more fossil fuels. What a contrast with Canada's support for China's Three Gorges Dam and the sale of CANDU reactors!
The legal profession is cited as both useful, as in getting rid of junk mail, and useless, as in getting Macmillan Bloedel of Clayquot Sound fame off the hook for violating 50 regulations since 1969.
Most of the ideas are local and practical, but the global problem of a resource-gobbling market system is also addressed. Green tariffs to monitor and regulate world trade are suggested. These would charge the equivalent of full-cost to imports, allowing open access only to products based on ecologically sustainable development. Bananas would be a special treat, not a cheap food, "filled with pesticides and injustices."
The ideas are scattered like maple keys. They need to take root. The book suggests that different problems be solved in different areas and the solutions shared. Many solutions have already been found, we just don't know about them. Or as the book says, "The biggest barrier to change isn't technology or cost, it's laziness." "Swap till you drop" is the new motto.
I wanted more information-names and addresses-of the people who are in great green businesses. A list of green non-governmental organizations would be helpful too. But I loved the fun puns. "There's no reason for Western farmers to be cowed," they should raise buffalo. Some ideas, such as the one in the chapter "Blaaaaak and Decker" on replacing lawnmowers with sheep, might not fill you with shear delight.
I hope the suggestion of a pollution buster hotline, 1-900-KIK-BUTT, will be implemented and the ideas shared on the Internet. The next edition of Get a Life will be out early in 1995. Send in your ideas and make this green cure for Canada's economic blues a reality.
On Nov. 9, Minister of the Environment Sheila Copps launched an innovative public service dubbed Canada's Green Lane on the Information Highway. It is available to anyone with access to the internet.