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The Flinstonian approach to climate change: a rant (and an important small rave!)

Flintstonian is how I would describe our current approach to protecting our environment and climate change.

The Flintstones was a highly successful animated televised sitcom of the ‘60s featuring a mid-20th century suburban family (Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbours, the Rubbles) set in caveman times. According to Wikipedia, The Flintstones was the most financially successful and longest-running network animated television series for three decades, until it was surpassed by The Simpsons.

Maybe such an era-specific TV show won’t resonate with some people, but I can’t help but think that we are living in caveman times by blithely pursuing climate-destroying lifestyles and threatening our natural environment while clumsily swinging a club at nuanced policy needs. Smash, bash.

We see evidence of the caveman everywhere. For example, Ontario’s Bill 23 that is supposed to support the construction of affordable housing but doesn’t. What it does do is erode the Greenbelt environmental protections. Bill 23 is a big fat useless club - Flintstonian for sure. Smash, bash.

Another example: The removal of beautiful old trees at Osgoode Hall in the centre of downtown Toronto described as a "jewel in the city," by the Osgoode Hall Law Society’s lawyer, Linda Rothstein. Metrolinx has positioned the tree removal as the only option to facilitate the construction of a much-needed new transit station in this location when in fact there ARE other options that the community should be given an opportunity to consider. Where is the involvement of the community and the thoughtful consideration of the trade-offs between the preservation of this living jewel and the construction of new transit? Nothing to see here….move along. Smash, bash (cue the chainsaw sounds).

Metrolinx has a track record of railroading communities over tree removal and destruction of nature. In 2022, Metrolinx removed 260 trees from the Small’s Creek and Williamson Park ravines, including several century-old oaks. Metrolinx positioned the request to consider alternate designs as opposition to expanded transit. The community fought back and gained some concessions including a more expansive restoration plan than had been originally proposed but most of the trees came down.

Older trees are NOT replaceable. A 100-year-old tree takes 100 years to grow!! Until we figure out how to manufacture time or time travel our trees – these trees are irreplaceable. Just one science-y factoid: to equal the carbon sequestration of one 100-year-old tree requires 265 saplings to be planted. Trees anchor natural spaces and provide untold mental health and social benefits, particularly in urban settings with scarce natural spaces. We need these trees and these natural spaces that they so beautifully anchor. It’s head smackingly stupid that we are taking these trees down without considering alternatives. The list of environment-wrecking stupidity is long and is especially egregious because there ARE solutions. It’s a mindset.

This leads to my rave. Recently, engineering staff in my hometown implemented a tree-saving solution when a new sidewalk needed to be installed. Staff specified a meander for the sidewalk – completely avoiding the removal of an established tree. It’s a meander that matters. This tweak to a conventional construction specification is a small example but illustrates a mindset of asking about and considering options so that incredibly valuable natural assets like older trees are protected and cared for.

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