Posted by: Paul Jenkins | April 3, 2008

Ms. Elaine Eias

Original Blog Art by Sandra PoczobutThe Globe and Mail reported last week that bloggers don’t create news; instead, they opine on news published by mainstream media. This seems to suggest that bloggers editorialize rather than produce fact-based reporting of their own. That assertion is both ridiculous and offensive.

In other news, the Canadian Press reported Tuesday that women are increasingly outblogging men – in quantity, at least. The blogs I regularly read are mostly female written – although, this is more a symptom of my profession than the opinions available in the blogosphere – roughly 80 per cent of the students in my PR program are women.

Was anyone else getting a bit sick of last Saturday’s Earth Hour? Kudos to Tara Wood (a Centennial grad) and the WWF for their successful promotion of the event itself, but what were the key messages? Turning off the lights is a good idea? Symbolism is necessary to show public support for climate change initiatives? What exactly was I supposed to have learned because of the darkened hour?

I have many opinions concerning the TTC and its labour dispite, but I’m not going to share them now. Instead, I’d simply like to observe that the colour maroon is a poor brand choice for an organization dealing with claims of chronic filth. Maroon looks dirty even when it’s not. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then the TTC’s maroon dress has turned it into the devil’s mistress.

I went on a build for Habitat for Humanity Toronto last Friday in the exotic locale of Scarborough. It was great fun and I’m not just saying this because I’m doing my internship at the non-profit. I got to hit things – like nails and my thumb – saw things, crow bar things and pick up nails with a super magnet attached to a stick.

March was social media month in the Wall Street Journal, which I discovered by randomly picking up a section of it in the Tampa airport on my way back from Florida over reading week. When I tried to follow its content online, however, it was restricted – to paying readers.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the Globe and Mail should follow the lead of the New York Times. The latter publication recently returned to offering its online content free – much like the Toronto Star has always done. I’m all for some well placed capitalist greed, exploitation, what have you, but media have a legitimate and necessary role in any truly functioning democracy. In other words, media have a responsibility to keep citizens informed so that the decisions that are made are based on fact.

Why does Google’s spell check insist that there is no ‘u’ in colour? I can’t be the only one who gets penalized for spelling colour, honour, centre, metre and doughnut correctly. C’mon, Google, get it together.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that my efforts to save Alma College (see some of my previous posts) are complicated by internal failures at the Ontario Municipal Board. It issued approval for the demolition of Canada’s most endangered heritage property based on the type of research I’d have been failed for submitting back in my undergraduate days at McGill.

Last Friday, the Toronto Star reported that the city of Aurora is “slamming a decision by the OMB not to hold a special joint hearing with the province’s environmental review board.” Interesting. Alma College’s fate was sealed when none of the groups actually interested in preserving the school were allowed to have a say in its fate.

The OMB has a new website. I couldn’t find its mandate or mission anywhere. Go figure. Even Toronto urban designer Ken Greenberg is grumbling about the dominance of the OMB. Referring to the proposed construction of suburban box stores in the city core, he says, “The sad truth here is that the OMB has become the de facto planning board for Toronto, a role that it was never set up to fulfill.”

Coming home on the subway today I was assaulted by an advertising campaign for Gillette Mach3 Disposable razors. Its eco-insulting tagline – “enough said.” Really? I mean, really!? At a time when western consumers are being encouraged to minimize their consumption, is it absolutely necessary to promote a product that’s the personal hygiene equivalent of an SUV?

Finally, Statistics Canada released 2006 census data this morning that accurately expresses why Toronto is such a unique and exciting city – it’s one that belongs to the world. Nearly 43 per cent of Canada’s largest metropolis is a visible minority. Eat your apple, New York City!

(original blog art by Sandra Poczobut, 2008 – available for commission – sandra dot poczobut at gmail dot com)

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Responses

  1. EARTH HOUR – In response to “what exactly was I supposed to have learned because of the darkened hour?” I say, “does it really matter!?” The point was exactly this, to get people talking about energy conservation, and that is exactly what this event did. As one of my students said, “seriously, what difference is an hour going to make?” And he was dead right, but that wasn’t the point. It made 850 of my students at my school more aware, and another 15% of the residents of my city. Now over time, THAT can make a difference. I think Earth Hour was a great success, if only to know that last year no one outside of Australia knew about it and now 850 families in Milton do.

  2. I was upset when I couldn’t directly participate in Earth Hour (I was videotaping a wedding that night).

    I think people need small increments of change in their lives. If we ask too much, the public won’t comply. We’re all in far too deep of a routine groove that we don’t want to break away from.

    If the public is asked to sacrafice ANY bit of quality of life, it won’t be done. But we’re addapting creatures. I say we do it again this year, and three times in 2009. (Then when the poles melt by 2013 maybe we’ll be ready for a real change)

  3. Great post Paul, touching on a myriad of topics…

    Yes, I found promotion for the ‘light-movement’ much, but I think it’s long overdue. Despite the WWF’s attempts at messaging, I think people honestly do “get” the message – they just do not care.

    Canada, I believe has been noted as a leader in the production of waste as well as water wastage – which is really sad. I don’t know why that is, why are we so flippant when it comes to conservation? Why do we let the water run forever, leave the lights on everywhere… (and on that note, the latter in some buildings, is due to the fact that most buildings were built/designed in the 60s when “green design” was merely a myth.)

    Oh my gosh, to redesign all of Toronto’s buildings so that they don’t waste electricity? What an insane concept. There are so many areas of energy conservation where there’s just a MASSIVE flaw in the system, the flaw being – we’re too comfortable/entrenched in our wasteful ways to change it.

  4. Good news: Urban-planning Ryerson students have come up with an alternative project design for the OMB to consider for Leslie Ville. You never know.

    Apparently, “visible minority” is now politically incorrect. Can’t say I blame them. It’s like being labelled “visibly different.”

    As far as conservation goes, it’s like everybody is waiting for everybody else to do something. People just don’t realize how much difference the little things make. The government’s answer seems to be to impose higher rates on electricity. Is this really the answer? Poor people will be sitting in the dark, while the rich will still be able to afford to light up their mansions inside and out like an amusement park. It’s sickening.
    And all you Hummer drivers: you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  5. For your opener – Bloggers can do both. Coincidentally, I was listening to This Week in Tech last night and they were discussing that same topic.

    You’re right Natalie, the rise in electricity pricing is a dumb idea; sounds like something the Tories would think up. We need to start taking little steps to conserve. I would never buy a disposable razor because of the waste – seriously, the blade cartridges are bad enough. I try to be conscious of what I dispose of, and the energy I use. I’m not perfect, but I try.

    Maybe a wiki would be useful for sharing all the little efforts we make to conserve? I’ve been pondering uses for wikis lately.

  6. Paul, I loved your post. I actually laughed out loud. I do agree that the message in earth hour was missed. But that’s what tends to happen with campaigns based on stunts or mass activity. They end up being rolling stones gathering moss: by time the stone eventually stops rolling, nobody can tell what it looked like in the first place.

    I can’t wait to hear your comments on the Olympic torch fiasco.

  7. In response to Mrs. O’Reilly’s response to Ms. Elaine Eias, I quote her fridge’s white board. “Jodi, you smell like poo!” All kidding aside, I hear your point and don’t dispute it. Earth Hour had value, but I still don’t feel like it left me with any concrete ways to make a difference.

    Here, I’m not disparaging the concept or need of the idea, simply its execution. See, “Turning out the lights for Earth Hour” is a slogan, not a message. “Earth Hour can show you how to save energy every hour of your life – just visit our website,” is a message and a call to action. The latter has real value, the former only superficially so.

    Staffeen, I don’t think it’s fair to simply say Canadians don’t care about climate change – even though our governments’ various responses to it have been embarrassing. My sister Jodi, Mrs O’Reilly, lives as close to an environmental life as you could ever hope for in Canada. No cleaning chemicals, energy efficient appliances, recycling and offers to be part of Milton’s first composting project, Toads, as they call her, is a model of how to engage our world. We just need more Toads willing to engage the issue with greater urgency.

    We also need calls to action that better answer, “what’s it in for me?” Of course, this is easier said than done. Climate change solutions are too often contradictory. The challenge is not from a lack of information, (in fact, there’s too much), it’s from a lack of authority and consensus. Check out the Globe and Mail web-exclusive comment by Benjamin Dachis called The inconvenient truth about Earth Hour. (see my delicious tags)

    Natalie, a visible minority is an idea that can only be expressed in context. It’s an us versus them construct that insults both our diversity and commonalities. In a few years, however, our context will change and we’ll all be visible minorities. This, a unique experiment in our otherwise fragmented world.

    Rhonda, I loved your rolling stone analogy. Give me more.

    Colin, I agree that people need “small increments of change,” but what do we do if Mother Earth can’t wait that long?

    Rick, I bought one of those old school razors where you just change the metal blades while in Sarajevo. I’ve had better shaves, but it does the trick. I find the new disposable razor promotion to be in extreme contrast to a public mood otherwise characterized by a new interest in conservation. I’m surprised more people aren’t saying, wtf!

  8. It’s “Jodi smells like bacon-wrapped poo” thanks very much! I appreciate your kind words though.
    I also enjoyed the rolling stone analogy.
    I have been a little shocked at how many people perceive earth hour as a “waste” – no pun intended.


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