BY TIM HARVEY
Has a cabal on Salt Spring gone collectively mad? I’m speaking of whomever is behind the environmentally devastating plan to tear up the living, oxygen-producing high school playing field in Ganges to make way for a roughly hectare-sized swath of macro-plastic covered in micro-plastic “infill” that will inevitably spread throughout the local environment.
One hardly knows where to begin. With a climate emergency upon us, how can we reasonably suggest removing the living soil and oxygen-producing field of natural grass to make way for a petrochemical blanket that suffocates the earth with yet another heat-absorbing artificial landscape? Do we care nothing for the marine and terrestrial life, humans included, that will inevitably consume the fake soil infill and shreds of UV-degraded fake grass? Have these champions of plastic pollution ever considered the “heat island” effect of a fake field, which has none of the thermo-regulating properties of a field covered by live vascular plants? And have they considered what a biohazard a plastic field can be after a few games played, found to be associated with antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus infections?
How much water does it take to rinse all the body fluids and other sticky messes away? Have the planners read the studies regarding hundreds of tons of net surplus carbon that such a field will deposit into the atmosphere, compared to the surplus of oxygen produced by the current grass field? Above all, have we considered what message a fake field would send to our children about how little we care about the state of the world we leave them?
Proponents of the $2.5-million project argue that the current field can’t be used outside of a few short weeks due to summer droughts and winter rains. Back when I grew up on this rainy coast, we played rugby during downpours and got muddy from head to toe. Are youth now denied this joy? As for the drier summer months, we are wise to consider what Peter Grove has pointed out before in the Driftwood: there is no shortage of water on Salt Spring, only the challenge of catching it when it falls. Could we not enlarge a nearby pond and install pumps and irrigation lines?
As an alternative, we could simply accept that our natural grass field may not always be as picture-perfect as a putting green. We owe it to our youth to encourage them to play through the seasonal changes in field conditions. If it is high-performance athletics we’re after, consider how a small country like Uruguay manages to compete for World Cup glory. When I lived in Uruguay through a drought so long that it caused a mass die-off of cattle, I saw youth playing avidly on parched fields. Our own very first-world problem with playing on fields considered too wet or too dry for our liking is a mindset that prevents us from competing at the highest levels of international sport.
The bigger issue is that we have passed the point in history when it is acceptable to allow the proliferation of plastic on the scale of a playing field.
This is a project that flies in the face of the social and scientific consensus of our era, and carries a heavy burden on climate, the local environment and future generations.