The recent letters to the editor from opponents of open burning demonstrate much that is wrong with public discourse today.
They discount or ignore the fact that there are any benefits to burning, and exaggerate the downside. Worse, they attack the character of people who support burning.
One of the writers stated that no one who supports open burning deserves any consideration unless they have been “educated” to think as she does.
Another relied on divisive class warfare rhetoric to suggest that owners of large properties are elites that gain an undeserved economic benefit from using open burning as a tool to maintain their properties.
And a third calls up the spectre of greenhouse gases (when in reality the burning of yard waste is a carbon-neutral exercise) and infers that anyone who supports open burning is “dumb.”
Ultimately, they all want to use the power of the state to impose yet another unwarranted, inefficient and expensive restriction on others who happen to have a different opinion than they do.
There is zero evidence that burning in accordance with the bylaw (that is, dry material on days when there is a good venting index) poses any substantive risk to human health or the environment.
The problem arises when people burn wet material on days without a good venting index in contravention of the bylaw. The expanded fall burning window enhances compliance by making more of those rare good venting index days available to people who want to burn responsibly.
Kudos to North Cowichan municipal council for the recent changes to the open burning bylaw. They have struck an appropriate balance between the benefits and the drawbacks of outdoor burning.