Saturday, June 16, 2007

Airing out the Laundry

The clothesline, a simple line of either rope, wire or something similar that is string like. The clotheslines can either be the traditional wire and pulley or in the 'tree format.'

When I was younger, I always loved seeing our families sheets being hung from the back yard's tree clothesline. I used to run through the sheets feeling the cotton run past my skin. I was careful, after the first few mishaps, to avoid the middle supporting pole ('the trunk') of the tree clothesline. But running into that pole was the least of my worries, my mother's wrath of after I messed up the clean sheets she had worked so hard to launder, was much worse.

Seeing the neighbours string their laundry out on the pulley stile of clothesline was fascinating. The screech of the pulley would signify the laundry was about to be strung out. I used to watch for the clothes and sheets to move out into view. First there was the screech, then a pause, then another screech, then a pause, then screech and there it was the first sheets came into view! For some reason watching the neighbour's laundry moving across their backyard on the line was mesmerizing.

But apparently not everyone finds clotheslines to be that exciting. In today's Toronto Star Ideas section, a story on the debate raging over clotheslines today in the town of Aurora and the province of Ontario brings this response from one lady:

"I don't want to see people's dirty laundry," says the woman, who didn't want to be identified. "We can't be told what to do."

The article further mentions that this lady believes clothe lines look junky and thus bring down property values.

However, others point that stringing your clothes out to dry in your backyard helps to reduce power consumption by not having to run your clothes dryer as much. Reducing power consumption is considered to be good for the environment because it means coal fired power plants and other fossil fueled electrical generating stations do not to need to run as much. The government of Ontario seems to support reducing consumption of power considering their funding to the "Flick Off" campaign aimed at reducing power consumed by lighting. In most neighbourhoods, like my parent's neighbourhood, putting your clothes out to dry in the backyard breezes is not a problem.

This is not always the case. Aurora Mayor, Phyllis Morris, has taken on the task of advocating for those in subdivisions who are not allowed to string their clothes out to dry. Apparently there are subdivision agreements that the developer has the new homeowner signs. Part of the subdivision agreement between the developer and the new homeowner in some subdivisions prevents the erection and use of clotheslines.

Seventy year old Robert Cook of Aurora brought this problem to the attention of Aurora council recently figuring only a local bylaw would solve the problem of not being able to use clotheslines in some subdivisions. Apparently it is not up to the municipality, but up to the province. So Aurora Mayor Morris took up the fight with the provincial government of Ontario which included a petition being submitted to the Ontario legislature. As well the Town of Aurora's Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the right for people to use clotheslines. The Mayor of Aurora wants the province to make the use of clotheslines legal no matter what subdivision agreements say.

The Aurora Mayor's fight with the province of this issue has brought national attention. Ms. Morris pointed out, in last week's Toronto Star article, that she has been hearing from across the country:

"I'm hearing from New Brunswick, from Calgary, from Vancouver. People feel that if you need legislation in order to hang a string and two hooks in your backyard, something is wrong."

A national interest in this issue over clotheslines. added with an impending Ontario provincial election in October of this year, would make one think this issue would be quickly dealt with a convenient photo op by the current Liberal Premier and Environment Minister. That is not the case.

To make matters worse for the Ontario Liberal government, the biggest current international environmental crusader of today has taken interest in this issue. Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore was in Toronto recently at a dinner. Gore spotted a T-Shirt Ms. Morris was holding up and inquired with the Aurora Mayor about it according to a recent Era-Banner story. Mr. Gore was shocked and requested his own t-shirt. So if you see Mr. Gore wearing a t-shirt with the words "Right-to-Dry" on it, blame us Canadians for it.

So what is the response of the Liberal government in Ontario? The Toronto Star reports that:

For now, Queen's Park is hoping the cities will make the first move.

"The government's preferred approach is to work co-operatively with municipalities on this issue," Energy Ministry spokesperson Sylvia Kovesfalvi says.

Typical government inaction seems to be at its best. On one hand the government is encouraging residents to reduce power consumption by turning off lights whenever possible and is now encouraging municipalities to reduce their energy consumption through a new infrastructure program. On the other hand, a simple law change seems to have been buried in other feel good environmental announcements.

Some might scoff and say the provincial government has to study the issue. But Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris would point out that nearly a year ago her pettition on this issue was submitted to the Ontario government. Since last August the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has had time to study the issue. What has resulted from this simple request to look into the issue by a single municipality with a good idea? Nothing so far. Has the Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty come up with anything concrete on this issue in terms of announcing new legislation? Not so far. Has Greg Sorbara, the Liberal's own head election organizer and Aurora's current MPP, formulated this issue into a plank of the party's election platform? Not so far. The Ontario Liberals seem to be dragging their feet on this issue by being absolutely silent despite this being a provincial responsibility.

The upcoming provincial election is the time for Aurora and other municipalities to press this issue. Local candidates and party leaders should be questioned on their views on this subject. The Ontario Liberals already have a poor record on this issue by doing nothing. But what do the Ontario Conservatives and NDP view this issue? The Ontario election campaign is the best time to find this out.

Residents should be encouraged to uses their clothes dryers less and their clotheslines more. Clotheslines reduce the amount of electricity consumed and, thus, greenhouse gases and other pollutants emanating from fossil fueled generating stations. Besides the most obvious positives for the environment, will the governments think of the children? All children should enjoy being a little mischievous by being able to run threw the drying laundry on the line. About the only downside of this issue is the mother's blood pressure when they see some muddy hand prints in the freshly laundered bed sheets. But a little high blood pressure is so little a sacrifice in comparison to saving the environment.

1 comment:

  1. When the condos by the waterfront start looking like something from Miss Saigon, with clothes lines between buildings, I wonder what the tourist board will say. As I said, we used to recycle old cars on our front lawns, not something that most condo associations will approve of now.

    And, take a look at your closest Toronto Housing project. Can't see too many clotheslines there.

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