In riverdale it's becoming easier to ride a bike in winter than summer. Sure, it's crazy cold, but unlike in months of smog heated by bumper-to-bumper car traffic along the Danforth, you can breathe the air.
But summer is a long way off when 20 concerned residents meet February 5 on a freezing cold night at the Riverdale Public Library at Broadview and Gerrard to talk about local environmental concerns, everything from idling cars in front of schools to the Portlands Energy Centre to Kyoto.
It's a tall order for an hour-long meeting, and organizer Mike Tanner wants to get the conversational ball rolling. "I'm embarrassed to say this, but I care more about this stuff now that I'm a parent," he says.
He worries that the high level of pollution in Riverdale (a Toronto Environmental Alliance map shows Toronto-Danforth has some of the highest toxin levels in the city) is contributing to the increase in asthma he's noticing among his kid's friends or the nagging bronchial cough he and his athletic buds have been battling all winter.
Some here are clearly frustrated over the work they put into stopping the port lands plant, only to get a flyer in the mail saying it was a done deal. Local MPP Peter Tabuns, who rode to victory last year on the wave of opposition to the plant, urges the group not to give up. "Look, the province won round one. But there are many issues to be resolved," he says. Chief among them is whether the plant will be used only to generate electricity during peak or mid-peak hours or will run full-time, its excess electricity sold elsewhere.
As well, many residents wonder where Toronto's climate change plan is, though Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher assures us it's on the way. Chair of the crucial parks and environment committee, she's in the catbird seat when her committee meets February 20 to craft recommendations for the mayor. "Sorry if people think we aren't moving fast enough," she says. "But we're all poised to do something very effective and worthwhile."
City officials have been working on the final results of a survey commissioned by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund that gathered emissions stats across all parts of the city in 2004.
Fletcher hasn't seen the report yet but expects it to be released sometime before the February 20 meeting. "Finally we'll know what we're dealing with and be able to put a plan together based on hard numbers," she says.
As the meeting ends and people wrap themselves up against winter's onslaught, they take away a mix of grassroots ideas like getting schools involved in anti-idling campaigns, car-free days in the 'hood and e-mail chains encouraging folks to take advantage of the federal home energy efficiency plan.
"I'd like to see the air clearer next summer so the kids aren't coughing," says Tanner. "That's a place to start."