Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A tale of seven swimming holes

This afternoon I took a walk in one of the ritzier areas in my neighbourhood.  In particular, I remember walking along a ridge and noticing that each house had a spectacular (and private) view of the Ottawa River Valley.  But then I realized that the lovely view was marred by a large pulp mill belching foul-smelling smoke.  I noted, with some satisfaction, that the same system that allows for the commodification of something so ephemeral as a view, also produces its destruction through "industry."  I also found myself wondering, "Am I the only one who gets this?"

Lets say you live in a town with seven swimming holes and you can visit any one of these swimming holes any time you want.  Now these beaches vary a lot in quality depending on the time of day and year and your personal tastes. One is East-facing and so is ideal for early morning swims while another is West-facing and so is ideal for evening swims.  Another has large, imposing Oak trees to the South making it perfect for afternoon swims during the dog-days of summer.  Of course, sometimes you are in the mood for crowds because maybe you want to rock a new swimsuit or search for old friends and so head to one of the most popular swimming holes.  Other days you might prefer to be alone, either because you're depressed or have a romantic engagement and so head to one of the less popular beaches.  And then, you never know when there might be an algae bloom which will make one of the lakes unpleasant for swimming

Now lets say that a bunch of development companies buy up all the land around these lakes--as they are wont to do in "free" countries like Canada--and sub-divide it into residential lots. You are lucky enough to score one of them and it is on the East-facing lake.  Now you have an entire lake that you only have to share with a few other neighbours! One month later you are re-assigned at work and have to work early mornings.  Two months later a giant algae bloom invades the lake.  Despite chlorine treatments and other invasions, it does not clear up.  You never go swimming in your town again and instead drive 250 km to an out-of-town resort.

So, were you richer before or after?

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