Saskatoon is a very green city.
I was watching a TED talk a few weeks ago. The speaker showed a picture of a stop sign that he figured was largely unnecessary. He advocated for the implementation of a ‘common-sense’ sign (“Take-turns”)– a cross between a yield sign and a stop sign. He calculated the cost of the unnecessary stoppage in terms of time and energy wasted, and it was really quite high. I forget the exact dollar amount, but it high enough that I said “whoa, that’s really high.” One could even say I was ‘surprised’ by just how much money is exhausted into nothingness, and all just for one little stop sign. (Note: $112,000/year)
Anyway, like I was saying, Saskatoon is a very green city. At times it’s even difficult to find the city among all the green space. Every major road seems to have 5 to 25 meters of grass on either side of it, every neighbourhood has a park or three, there are preserved wetlands and sort-of-old-growth forest all over the place, and even a bunch of agricultural fields right in the middle of the city, blooming with the university’s educational and research crops. Being virtually devoid of any buildings taller than three stories, one can look out over the city of 200,000 souls at the right time of year and see (almost) nothing but the deep, serene green of tree tops. It’s quite beautiful really – an environmentalist’s wet dream.
Except for when you actually think about it. The thing about all that green space is that it has forced the city to sprawl outwards, so instead of pristine natural wetlands surrounding the city, echoing with the music of migrating birds, one finds cookie-cutter suburban sub-divisions, interspersed with man-made creeks/drainage-ditches, and neatly-planted rows of manicured forest tucked between highways and overpasses – man-made ecology at its’ finest. Let’s be serious though, if we dedicated all that space to “real nature,” then all that money spent on the zoo (“The Saskatoon Forestry Farm”) would just be wasted, right? I quite like that name: “The Forestry Farm.” I always thought that a ‘farm’ was what happened when the ‘forestry’ was chopped down, but apparently tourism is on par with God and Narnia for generating paradoxical, magical worlds. I think the Forestry Farm should feature little smiling, animatronic deer, driving little smiling animatronic tractors, with a celebrity voice-over telling the story of the savage, virgin land, before colonialists saved it by enslaving the deer at gun-point, stealing their land, and forcing them to chop down the trees and work the fields to ‘capitalize’ on the resource wealth. Sorry, I’m being silly again. We would never treat deer like that. Natives, perhaps. After all, there were so many red-skins just lazing about harmoniously, and all that work would probably make the deer meat stringy and tough.
But I digress. The other great benefit of cramming so much “nature-space” everywhere in this city is that it means everything is farther away, so driving anywhere takes longer. Now, I don’t have the foggiest idea what kind of energy costs we are talking about here, but I’m pretty sure that the single stop-sign I referred to above tallied over $100,000, a couple gas-cents at a time. I’m not sure what the fuel cost of the millions of extra kilometres the citizens of this city collectively endure in the name of green space every year, but I’m pretty sure it’s not contributing to lower carbon emissions. Then again, it might, right? That’s what green things do, after-all, is turn the CO’s into O’s. Which is why I think it’s such a good thing that we have all that extra grass to mow with gas powered lawn-mowers. Ah, the sublime delicacy of life’s eternal balancing act.
It’s not that I don’t like green space. Really, I think we should up and abandon all the non-green space, and go live in caves and tree-houses. Until that dream becomes a reality though, I will enjoy the continuing laughable failure of good intentions, and the human animals amazing capacity for short-sightedness. Like cell phones made from recycled plastic – where the miniscule amount of ‘not-wasted’ plastic offers full moral compensation for the Congolese children’s blood, which ‘was-wasted,’ in order to extract cheap coltan so the phone can do all that crazy ‘new-phone’ shit. Hahaha … funny, right? Sounds like old C.S. and his Narnia talk again.