27 September 2017

Balloon ban not such a blowhard idea

— Westender 
 POP! There goes that idea. Last week, a proposed balloon ban for Vancouver parks and community centres was defeated by a vote of 5-2. Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon was the man behind the motion. Mackinnon’s concern was environmental, citing health hazards for animals in the air, ocean and on land.

Before it was defeated, the motion blew up into a crazy amount of coverage, which resulted in parental outrage, tired cries of “No Fun City” and general mockery on social media and talk radio.
Balloon artists and birthday clowns took action, leading to a balloon animal-making protest outside of the Trout Lake Community Centre, as well as clowns showing up at the park board vote (which means it’s entirely possible that the motion was voted down because the park board was simply scared shitless.)

If you’ve read this column before, you probably won’t be too blown away to discover what side of the balloon battle I fall on. Put it this way: who are we to put our kids’ temporary enjoyment in the form of a damn balloon animal ahead of the potential death of an actual animal?

Look, you’re human, you’ve probably had a helium balloon get away on you. Chances are, your reaction was to watch the balloon climb to dizzying heights and then shrug it off. What can you do? But heads up, butterfingers, what goes up must come down, and chances are your balloon ended up either in a tree or the ocean.

According to Mackinnon, wherever deflated balloons land, they can be mistaken for food by birds, dolphins and other creatures, which means they can choke to death on your balloon. Remember that the next time your kid demands that Sponge Bob helium balloon: you could be killing a dolphin. Nice one.

Balloon clowns will argue (and really, who wants to get in an argument with a clown?) that many no longer use helium or Mylar (the shiny material used for most helium balloons). Instead, socially conscious clowns now favour biodegradable latex.

If you’ve ever taken a stroll down certain trails in Stanley Park, though, you’ll know that it takes a long time for latex to break down. That time gap is still a problem for animals. (Also, fair warning: what that person in the bushes is blowing is NOT a balloon animal!)

Another argument is that our city has bigger issues to deal with than park rangers chasing after kids with balloons; like, for instance, human health risks surrounding discarded needles in public spaces. Fair point, so deal with that, too.

And so the balloon ban motion has burst, but let’s hope the floataway from all of this inflated attention is public awareness: we are all now fully aware that those shiny, happy balloons are in fact an environmental menace. And that's no clowning around.

© 2017 Vancouver Westender

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