By Ken Trainor
The current Oak Park Board of Trustees is reportedly looking for direction. With personality conflicts aplenty, they need an issue they can work on together, one that will raise the quality of life for all Oak Parkers, equitably. And I know just the thing:
Ban gas-powered leaf blowers.
If you've been reading the Viewpoints section of Wednesday Journal regularly (and I certainly hope the mayor and all the trustees do), you may have noticed that for the past five weeks, five separate writers wrote letters calling for a ban on leaf blowers.
That's what I call a groundswell.
On Sept. 18, Jim Whalen ["Acoustical litter is a health risk"] noted that many U.S. communities are banning leaf blowers, effective Jan. 1, 2022, because they are detrimental to our health.
Julie Laney ["Oak Park should ban gas leaf blowers"], on Sept. 25, cited an American Lung Association warning about respiratory and cardiovascular threats from particle pollution.
On Oct. 2, Louise Mezzatesta ["Gas leaf blowers are bad for your lawn"] questioned their effectiveness and said lawns need to be raked to get rid of thatch.
Elaine Johnson ["The case for banning leaf blowers"] noted that James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine, in an April article, "Get off my lawn: How a small group of activists [including Fallows] got leaf blowers banned in the nation's capital," cited a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which discussed how noise and air pollution from these devices cause harm. Johnson also noted that at least 100 U.S. cities will ban the blowers on Jan. 1, 2022.
And last week Patricia Olderr wrote in with "It's way past time to ban leaf blowers."
Indeed it is. We've been putting up with these ridiculous (and ridiculously loud) machines for far too long. All the way back in 2006, environmental advocate Ginger Vanderveer wrote to Viewpoints twice (May 24 and June 28) urging readers to stop using leaf blowers.
And even further back, on Oct. 17, 2001, I wrote my column on it. To summarize:
"I'm all for banning leaf blowers. This village would be a lot quieter without them, and I maintain their constant caterwauling raises the overall stress level, which is too high to begin with. All terrorists have to do is thoroughly infiltrate the nation's lawn service industry and perpetually run their leaf blowers, which would drive the entire population insane (and deaf). Wait, maybe they've done it already. People have been acting pretty crazy lately.
"I didn't hear a single leaf blower at New Melleray Abbey, the Trappist Cistercian monastery in Iowa where I've been going every October to try to restore my sanity. Restoring sanity isn't all that difficult. Basically, we need to slow down and quiet down. We're usually in a hurry because we're trying to catch up with time, but the secret is to slow down and let time catch up with us. It's a paradox — when you slow down, you have more time. Or maybe it just seems that way. Maybe you just make better use of the time you have.
"The secret to leading a happy life, I'm convinced, is not being in a hurry. You miss too much on your way to the deadline.
"It took me four days at the monastery before I quieted down. Being in a quieter environment doesn't do any good unless you also quiet down inside. The noise inside our heads can be as loud as any leaf blower.
"The monks here are quiet, inside and out. They work hard but never go more than a couple of hours before heading back to the chapel to pray. They don't give themselves the chance to gear up to hyperdrive.
"They do this, I suspect, because God is silent. After watching the sun set silently on one horizon and the full moon rise silently on the opposite horizon two nights in a row, I decided silence isn't the problem. God is quiet, not silent. You have to be almost as quiet as God in order to hear something. And it's hard to hear anything when you're always in a hurry and surrounded by leaf blowers.
"What would we hear if we could quiet down that much? What secret is God trying to impart? If we listen — I mean really listen — this is what we'd probably hear God say:
"Turn off the damn leaf blowers!"
After that column (not necessarily because of it), the village did act on gas-powered leaf blowers, restricting their use except in the fall. Well, as you've no doubt noticed, that directive fell by the wayside. Lawn services use leaf blowers non-stop from April through November, all so our lawns will have that sterilized, obsessively manicured look (God forbid some blades of cut grass should be visible on the sidewalk!).
This village would be a lot more serene without that constant infernal racket (not to mention all the dust). Everyone might be calmer, even the trustees. So I'm throwing my full support behind the proposal to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in Oak Park — hopefully even before 2022.
If you agree, contact the village board and ask them to put this issue on their agenda. After all, the main reason anyone runs for office (let's hope) is to raise the quality of life for their constituents.
Banning leaf blowers will improve our lives.
I have it on the highest authority.
Answer Book 2019
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