Burning Garbage: It Stinks!

I’ve recently returned to live in Durham Region, east of Toronto, Ontario (Canada). I’ve spent the greater part of my adult life in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), as it happens, but I was (mostly) away for 8 years in there, during which time a big battle on burning garbage has been playing out here.

Turncoat politicians are involved (surprise, surprise! Not). Some were elected on an anti-incineration platform – helped, in some cases, by citizens who’d become involved in their campaigns on that very basis (imagine how angry those citizens are about this!?). There has also been, I am told, intimidation of smaller, less powerful areas of the Region by the head honcho of Durham Region Council (not a popular man, from what I hear, & not elected to this post by the voters of Durham Region).

Gotta say, this is an all-too-familiar kind of scenario.

Big Business has a fancy plan they claim is going to be an “easy” solution to a big environmental issue/problem/crisis.

Highly-paid shills for the particular industry (incinerator, nuclear; take your pick!) appear before the politicians in their expensive suits, deliver their technical & jargon-laden powerpoint presentations, carefully glossing over any inconvenient truths such as health & environmental impacts, & almost invariably snow the bored/unwitting/bought/fill-in-the-blank politicians.

Citizens mobilize. Even medical professionals become involved & protest the plan. (In this case, 75 local doctors signed a petition against the incinerator. You can go here to see some of what the U.S.-based Physicians for Social Responsibility have to say about the risks of incineration.)

But whatever deals went on behind closed doors, took place behind those firmly closed doors.

The deal with Covanta has been struck.

The people it will affect the most – in terms of health impacts that of course are always hard to prove, short of a smoking gun (especially when corrupt boards of health manipulate the statistics in the ways they are so very, very adept at doing; can you say “statistically insignificant”??) will not only be the ones breathing the poisoned air (with no bribes to sweeten our deal) – we get to foot the bill, too!

It’s enough to make you crazy!! (Fortunately, I don’t have far to go! Heh heh. & of course, the inmates are running the asylum anyway, hmm??)

Now, I’m not as “up” on the waste issue (or incineration) as I used to be. I detoured into other areas of activism along the way.

This much I do know:

  1. Burning garbage creates dioxins – vastly carcinogenic & dangerous to all living things.
  2. Poisoned air really gets around. It is no respecter of borders!
  3. What comes out the stack will blow into Lake Ontario, onto farmland & crops downwind, & it will also blow well to the east of Durham Region – so the communities east of this planned nastiness also need to become involved & help put a stop to it!
  4. The ash created when you burn garbage is extremely toxic. It has to go somewhere. Apparently the toxic ash from this (combined York & Durham Regions) monstrosity will be shipped to New York state, U.S.A. Great solution! Not…
  5. Without citizen involvement, & donations toward the lawsuit underway (go to the Durham CLEAR Web site to find out more), we will be dead ducks on this. Please donate! Write a letter! Talk it up with friends, colleagues, neighbours, family. Buy a T-shirt. I am doing all of the above, so am not asking anyone to do anything I am not prepared to do myself.
  6. Not being an “expert”(1) on this topic, I have to rely on the groups that have become the real experts in this issue. Sites I suggest you check out are:

· Durham CLEAR

· Durham Environment Watch

· Prevent Cancer Now

· Resources page here

This issue is like any other, readers – especially fellow residents of Durham Region. If you choose to remain silent about this, your apathy will reap what your inaction inevitably sows. And those consequences will be affecting all of us (including y/our children & grandchildren) for a very long time to come.


P.S. My other incineration-related posts are found here under a new heading.

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “The latest scheme masquerading as a rational and responsible alternative to landfills is a nationwide – and worldwide – move to drastically increase the use of incineration… The principal consequence of incineration is thus the transporting of the community’s garbage – in gaseous form, through the air – to neighbouring communities, across state lines, and indeed, to the atmosphere of the entire globe, where it will linger for many years to come. In effect, we have discovered yet another group of powerless people upon whom we can dump the consequences of our own waste; those who live in the future and cannot hold us accountable.” Al Gore in Earth In The Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit

Runners-up: “Silence is the voice of complicity.” Source unknown

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke

“Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” – Ancient Kenyan Proverb

(1) Jane Jacobs once said “Always be prepared to believe that experts are stupid. They very often are.”