Delegates at the annual conference of the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) in Markham, Ontario were disappointed this week when a celebrity guest speaker ended up a no-show. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore had been invited to speak, in keeping with the RCO conference’s amusing film theme; the event was entitled "Lord of the Rings" (think of the recycling "Mobius loop").
Moore canceled his appearance because he’s in the middle of a public dispute with Disney, that is refusing to distribute his new film about the war in Iraq, entitled "Fahrenheit 911" (a spoof of a similarly named sci-fi flick). Some people suspect that the controversy was actually manufactured by Moore himself in order to garner publicity two weeks in advance of the film’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival. (Moore has apparently known for a year that Disney was opposed to subsidiary Miramax distributing the film.)
Instead of Bowling for Columbine or Roger and Me, RCO delegates perhaps thought they were living out a real-life version of Castle Rock Entertainment’s film "Waiting for Guffman," a mockumentary written and directed by Christopher Guest (of Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, etc.). In that movie (the title is a take off on Beckett’s Waiting for Godot), an aspiring director convinces a local theatre troupe in a tiny American town that if they put on a great play, famous New York Broadway critic "Guffman" will attend the premiere, give them a great review and get them started on the road to Broadway and wealth and fame. After much hectic preparation, dreaming and rehearsals, Guffman does not show up.
Eventually Moore spoke to the crowd via telephone and loudspeaker on the second day of the conference. For his fans, it must have sounded a bit like the voice of the left-wing God booming down in the auditorium. Amid some quite funny deprecating remarks about himself and his country, Moore made an impassioned speech asking Canadians to set an example for America about environmental protection. He mentioned he has noticed many trucks with Ontario license plates hauling waste to his native Michigan, which he likened to dumping waste in an internal Third World country. (He said he nevertheless enjoyed the irony of Canadians "dumping their crap on America for a change").
Despite the Moore no-show, conference delegates seemed generally very pleased with the quality and content of the overall event, which addressed key concerns during a hectic and confusing time for waste management in Ontario, especially since the new Blue Box funding plan has just come into effect and stewardship plans for used oil and tires have hits various snags. Particularly entertaining was the incineration panel which was more or less hijacked by anti-incineration activist Professor Paul Connett whose remarks contained some interesting observations but whose totally over-the-top dramatic presentation style and level of anger seemed poorly calibrated and more appropriate to stir up feelings at a public meeting over a proposed incinerator than an informed professional audience.
Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky spoke at the opening plenary session and made an important announcement that Ontario will adopt the CCME guidelines for compost, thus increasing the market viability for compost generated in new large-scale programs. The minister also reaffirmed her commitment and support for her recently announced 60 per cent waste diversion target for the province.