Blog /torontonian apathy

July 14, 2004 01:50 +0200  |  Society & Culture Why I'm Here 0

i just don't get it.

the cn tower, the tallest free-standing building in Canada has disappeared behind a thick cloud of smog that's overrun the city. from my apartment on the 21st floor, i can see most buildings within about a five block radius and the rest is grey.

i wanted to believe that it was just fog coming in off the lake, but fog doesn't do this. it doesn't come into the city and wedge itself between buildings... and it sure as hell doesn't do it on a day as hot as today -- not without help. this mix of car exhaust, industrial waste and fog from the already heavily polluted lake ontario is unnatural and all the residents of this city seem to do is point and utter something stupid like "isn't that neat? the smog's so thick i can't see the scotia tower from here".

maybe it's ignorance. maybe these people honestly think it's always been this way. but really, how stupid do you have to be to think that? toronto is now number 4 on the list of most polluted cities on Earth ranked just behind hong kong, los angeles and new york and the will to fix this mess is just not there. i look into the eyes of the strangers i talk to here and i see that same mind-numbing, defeating apathy. how do you fight that? these are the lemmings that are making your air unbreathable, your water polluted -- and they just smile and point and the funny sky. these people certainly don't want to be educated, and any mention of environmental issues are met with rolling eyes. hell, most people in this city STILL throw their newspapers in the garbage rather than putting it in the recycling bin right next to it!

i talked to my grandmother last night about a lot of things. it was her birthday and i thought i'd call and say "hi". i talked about some of what i've mentioned here, and how i'm generally having a difficult time finding a place to start fighting this mess. but taking her suggestion, i went online to the city's site and did some more poking... and i think i finally understand the problem. i didn't until just now.

most of the initiatives taken by city hall and others in toronto have been directed toward causes rather than people. the sierra club has a "car free day" to help "raise awareness" and get people out of their cars, and the city hosts a number of "environment days" to try to get people to recycle more. these ideas, along with others are all ignoring the simple truth that's as clear now as the cn tower is invisible: most people here don't give a shit about anything these groups have to say and they're not going to lift a finger to fix something that "doesn't seem so bad".

so that's the problem. what's the solution? i hate to say it. i really hate to say it, but it's the only thing that i can think of right now: we've got two choices:
  • propaganda
  • old fashioned fascism
...and no, i'm not being funny.

people care so little about so many things, but they care so much about the molson indy, or what kind of dress some rich actor wore to the oscars. people care about these things because they're hyped up by a highly motivated media conglomerate. the latest spiderman movie will not affect anyone in any real way, but the lineup of apathetic idiots waiting to get $12 tickets went out the door. i challenge you to show me an example of that kind of dedication on anything environmental or political. hell, when the americans invaded iraq about 10million people protested. that's fewer than saw spiderman in the first weekend.

the other option is just as valid. sure, no one wants to use the f-word, and understandably so, i'm not a fan either. but the apathetic masses, like children have to be told what to do. rules have to be laid down that no one really likes but need to be followed so our grandkids can breathe. i think (and i'm just thinking "out loud" here) that the city could benefit from fewer public consultations and more action. we elected you to get this stuff fixed, not tie it up in committees for 20years. tolls need to go on the freeways, high fines on polluters and major subsidies to waste reduction programs. these things need to be done now not later.

i don't think that most people really understand the humbling strength of apathy. no one can until they try to motivate someone who just doesn't care. options are limited, and unless someone can give me a better one, i'm going to start going with what i know works. and i guess that at that point the real question is: "can not wrecking the environment be cool?"

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