COLUMN: One day, there will be quiet in the fields

Eventually, they will be silenced.
I mean, they have to be.
The concept is just too absurd to carry on in this contemporary, environmentally aware, care-about-your-fellow-man world.

COLUMN: One day, there will be quiet in the fields

Eventually, they will be silenced.

I mean, they have to be.

The concept is just too absurd to carry on in this contemporary, environmentally aware, care-about-your-fellow-man world.

Think about it. You plant a crop in a big, open field. The crop attracts birds. The birds eat some of the crop.

Solution?

Create a device that generates an extremely loud explosion.

Place several of these devices around the fields, and set them to go off every few minutes, all day long.

An agricultural war zone, at farm after farm.

Ridiculous!

Yet, there they are – the blueberry cannons – booming and banging away throughout the Valley, for weeks upon endless weeks.

Woe betide the poor souls who live near these artillery ranges.

The daily barrage on the Sumas flatlands can even be heard from the McMillan hillsides.

Boom! Bang! Boom!

Shot after shot, from dawn till dusk.

It’s noise pollution that wouldn’t be tolerated in virtually any other setting. But because it’s deemed ‘necessary’ for agricultural purposes, it’s justified.

Ultimately, it won’t be.

It’s a crude, bad practice. Effective, perhaps, but immensely invasive.

The widespread use of toxic pesticides and herbicides was once taken for granted, accepted as practical and necessary.

Eventually, however, attitudes changed.

Noise pollution from blueberry cannons isn’t the same as environmental pollution and human health concerns, although in respect to the latter, there is relevance. Noise does pose health issues.

Regardless, the principle of developing a more harmonious relationship with the natural world, and a heightened agricultural “conscience” does apply here.

We’ve learned how to deal with bugs without hitting them with a chemical sledgehammer.

Timber companies were once political powerhouses that could and did exhibit a “who cares” attitude about their impact on the environment. Yet, over time, public pressure brought about forestry regulations and practices that no longer leave barren wastelands and damaged watersheds.

The agriculture industry is also an economic strongman, unchallenged by governments reluctant to change archaic “Right to Farm” legislation.

But  farmers can and will learn to live with birds without using howitzers.

Viable alternatives already exist – and are being used by some growers – from the venerable scarecrows, to nets, streamers, flashers, natural predators, silhouettes and models, balloons, reflective windmills, and high-frequency devices.

Bright minds are working on other high-tech gadgetry, such as lasers, that can protect blueberry crops without auditory savagery.

I don’t envision or advocate an outright, overnight ban on the use of cannons. A gradual phase-out is more reasonable, weaning growers off the devices in stages.

It could start with a moratorium on any new cannons, moving to increasing restrictions on frequency, size of acreages where they can be used, and proximity to neighbourhoods.

After all, if residential development is allowed to expand up to and around agricultural land, governments have a responsibility to address the issues created by this contact zone.

And please don’t say, “If you don’t like it, leave.” That argument is as crude as the cannons.

One day, there will be silence.