Lanark County:  Green or greenwashing?

by Theresa Peluso

Time and again, we have seen attempts by corporations to greenwash their activities; to disseminate distorted information so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.

Well, it looks like our County has added that ploy to its repertoire.

Last year, after hundreds of emails and letters from residents and nature groups, and delegations by science experts, farmers and beekeepers, all concerned about protecting our plants, insects, birds, and other living creatures – including humans – from the spraying of chemicals on our roadsides, it looked as if Lanark County was – finally – listening, and trying to take measures to protect our health and natural environment.

Lanark County didn’t hesitate to brag about its “newfound” environmental strategies (while claiming the efforts of others as its own), as evidenced by its press release last April, which extolled its “long-term, multi-faceted and holistic approach”, including providing the onerous Adopt-a-Road program for environmentalists to control weeds and pick up litter.  The County vaunted its new relationship with Pollinator Partnership Canada and the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, and the virtues of its new Integrated Vegetative Management Plan which, truth be told, is a dog’s breakfast of random and dubious suggestions for a flimsy weed management strategy.

But the truth of the matter is that the advice provided by environmental experts was only half-heartedly carried out – if at all.  For example, to replace the chemically killed wild parsnip with other pollinator-friendly plants, Lanark County did in fact reseed the sites it had sprayed, but then just left the seeds to fend for themselves – with the result that the County had a 2 percent “success” rate.  The initiative sounds so much greener if you leave out that particular pesky detail.  So the sprayed areas will eventually be replaced by non-pollinator-friendly grasses – and perhaps more noxious weeds, looking for a new home. The County also seemed receptive to MVFN’s offer to help the County map areas of fractured bedrock – to prevent groundwater contamination by the pesticides — but in the one year that has elapsed, nothing more has been heard from the County.

As for the IVMP, when its deficiencies were pointed out to Lanark County soon after it was made public, several experts offered to revise the plan at no cost – but Lanark County declined.  Clearly, this “plan” is just for show – to enable Lanark County to brag about its green credentials because of the title on the so-called plan’s cover.  The only part of the plan the County is following enthusiastically is the part that advocates spraying.

This year, it looked an awful lot like Lanark County was trying to sneak its spraying program through without letting people know well enough in advance that they could opt out of having their roadsides sprayed.  Because the County is compelled to notify the public, it thought this could be achieved by publishing, on May 10, an itty-bitty 17 x 20 cm notice in tiny print, buried in the back pages of the local paper, advising the public that it would start spot-spraying county roadsides one week later, and omitting any no-spray options.  Only because a concerned resident then notified provincial authorities about this dismal attempt at public notification, was this notice followed two weeks later with a somewhat larger notice on page 2 (!) of the local paper, but — giving residents one (!) day to let the County know if they wanted to opt out!  (I guess only individuals who got their paper that very day, AND had decent Internet service, AND lightning-fast reflexes would have succeeded!)  Although no-spray options were fleetingly mentioned in the notice, no details were given.  There was no invitation to the 28 groups who, last year, had hand-dug weeds as part of the Adopt-a-Road option, to renew this initiative.  It was very, very hush-hush.  ONLY if you saw the notice, and accessed the web address given, would you discover the oh-so-secret no-spray options.

Clearly, Lanark County is obsessed with using chemicals on our roadsides, and its attempts to portray itself as “green” is, purely and simply, a façade.

Please let your County councillors know that hoodwinking the public like this is what we’d expect of an authoritarian government, not a democracy.  Their contact information can be found here:  https://lanarkcounty.civicweb.net/Portal/Welcome.aspx . We must continue to defend the health and safety of our families and our natural environment.