A Victory for Dandelions in Ottawa

May 22, 2014
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By Lea Z. Singh |

A traffic circle in our neighbourhood.
Ottawa has been conquered by dandelions. They are everywhere by the millions, making our local grassy areas resemble farmer’s fields of mustard plants. I can imagine worse fates than to surrender to a sea of bright yellow flowers, but it does make me ponder the way that social certainties come and go, with the latest truths always being the most right and often imposed by government decrees.

Even a decade ago, people could have been reported to the City for having lawns that looked like this traffic circle. Neighbours could have complained that the dandelions were being spread onto their property. The City probably wouldn't have done anything to the owner of such a lawn, but social stigma would have been certain for this spreader of lawn care's biggest enemy.

The prevailing view back then was that dandelions were an unsightly blight upon the plain green carpets of our front lawns, football fields, parks and other green spaces, and all means were fair game in the war on the golden flower. That was a time when one could travel from one end of the City to the other and hardly see a cluster of dandelions on City property.

Today, the other extreme has come to roost; there is hardly any grass anywhere, especially on City property. With the pesticide ban of 2009, the City of Ottawa seems to have given up and resigned itself to a dandelion infestation.

Many property owners are not yet on board with that new outlook. It's amusing to walk through the neighbourhood and watch the poor home owners (ourselves included) pulling out dandelions from their lawns, even as the city properties right next to them are thick with yellow flowers and white seed-heads. How in the world can home owners win that battle?

We probably aren't supposed to win the battle. The new ideology is in town, and dandelions are no longer Enemy No. 1. Instead, it's the chemicals used to control them that must be eliminated. Just goes to show, our certainties do indeed flip on a dime. Just as the healthy foods of one era are often viewed as unhealthy a decade later, the views we have on other matters also fluctuate and even flip completely over time.

If we recognized this more often, perhaps our public policies would be less dogmatic than they tend to be. A dose of humility about our present opinions would do us only good.


Photo: Vladimir Sevcik, All Rights Reserved. For permission to use, please contact me.

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