Canadians Against Pesticides
Pesticide Activist Pounds
Pavement of Change
Smalltown Ontario gets message thanks to spring ritual
By BERNARD FRAZER
Janet McNeill is clutching a bundle of crisp, freshly printed flyers as she pounds the pavement going door to door in Greenbank, Ontario. For 8 years, her flyer delivery has been a springtime ritual, one by which local residents can pretty much set their clocks.
When she began in 1994, spring was usually marked by the sight of lawncare reps dousing neighbourhood yards with toxic chemicals. Things are just a little different now, thanks to Janet's annual regime.
"We go door to door and drop off "Dear Neighbour" letters to let people know the dangers of pesticide exposure."
The flyer, entitled "What is the real cost of using pesticides on your lawn?" is produced and delivered by Janet and a small group of locals called The Scugog Green Team. They respond to the communique's title question with a scorching array of facts (many pesticide solutions contain carcinogens) and illuminations on the highly ineffective legislation governing pesticide registration such as:
"..."inert" ingredients in lawn sprays [which commonly make up over 90% of the product] are not required to be identified.. none have been tested for potential threats to children, pregnant women, the asthmatic or the elderly".
Whether it's this startling dose of reality or Janet's shear persistence, the number of pesticide-treated lawns in Greenbank has markedly dropped.
"People are generally receptive" Janet remarks as she gears her team up for another delivery. "We go out in pairs and we don't confront people." In fact, most are genuinely receptive to the group's concerns.
"People ask us questions and their reactions are very positive."
The non-confrontational approach proved powerful as McNeill recalls how it influenced her next door neighbour, an openly non-environmental type.
"We dropped a Dear Neighbour letter off... and, that season, she stopped having her lawn sprayed!"
Intrigued, Janet asked the woman what prompted the change. She replied:
"You didn't brow beat me, or give me a hard sell, you just left the flyer at my door to read on my own time."
Ghandi, the model of passive resistance, once noted "We must be the change we seek in this world". He would, undoubtedly be proud of McNeill's approach.
Whether passively like McNeill or otherwise, normally contented Canadians are taking to the streets to spread the anti-pesticide message. They are chatting up their neighbours, petitioning city councils for pesticide bylaws and begging Prime Minister Chretien and Health Minister Alan Rock for real and immediate change to the Pest Control Product Act. Their message is clear "Pesticides Harm Human Health".
Thanks to the persistance of Janet McNeil and those of her ilk, the message is finally getting through.