Ban on Pesticides

        The Town of Shediac has recently become the first municipality in New Brunswick to move toward banning the so-called "cosmetic" use of pesticides. Town Council has taken the position of banning all such use on public property - schools, playgrounds, town parks and buildings - within the next year, and on all domestic use within its jurisdiction within the next two or three. In so doing, Shediac has recognized what is becoming increasingly evident to more and more people: many of these substances are highly toxic even in small or dilute solutions, and that they do not serve any essential function.

        The more I learn as an environmentalist, the more pragmatic I become. I rarely argue in absolutes any more because I realize that every time I use a word like "never" or "always", I paint myself into a potential corner. Thus, while I am personally committed to conducting my life around my own property in a pesticide free manner, I have a harder time in condemning their use to control mosquitoes in a malarial swamp in the tropics. There may be times, it seems to me, when the threat to human life is otherwise so strong that a judicious use of a pesticide may be justified. However, I cannot imagine any such circumstances in present day New Brunswick. Certainly, using these substances to control dandelions or aphids while putting the health of children, neighbours and family pets at risk seems to me to be the height of irresponsibility, especially now that we becoming more aware all the time of their toxicity even in small applications.

        Thus, although I am becoming more pragmatic in my thinking, I am also becoming more intolerant of practices which have little or no real benefit but which have the potential for serious consequences to the world around us. I can justify spraying if it is truly the lesser of two evils, but no amount of dandelions, ragweed, or purple loosestrife constitutes a threat so serious to life that it justifies the use of these chemicals. Even the problems caused by allergies (as in the case of ragweed) can be controlled by means other than trying to eradicate the plants themselves, especially when one realizes that the chemicals which may be used in such a project are themselves the source of serious health problems.

        And so I would like to issue a challenge to our local municipalities. Which of you - Campbellton, Dalhousie, Balmoral, Charlo, Atholville, Eel River or any of the others - is going to be the first to follow the courageous steps of Shediac and ban the cosmetic use of these substances in your jurisdiction? Oh, yes, there will be a few of your citizens who will be very unhappy with you for so doing, but I am willing to bet that there will be some who will not really care - and many more yet who will be very happy with your decision. If I judge local people correctly - and the positive and encouraging comments I receive after columns tackling pollution in other forms suggest that I can - they will welcome this next small but very important step along the road back to a cleaner environment for all of us.

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