Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New York Bans the Smell of Autumn

The Middletown Times-Herald Record has the story: no more leaf burning in the Empire State as of today. It’s for your own good of course. Environmental edicts always are.

So who’s the grinch that stole the last smells of fall? That would be Peter Grannis, the Commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. And who elected him? Well, nobody—environmental stewardship is too important to be left to the whims of the electorate. Mr. Grannis was appointed by the recently humiliated governor of New York. No, not that guy. The sex-with-a-call-girl guy.

And what qualifies Mr. Grannis to be environmental commissioner—his scientific background perhaps? No, he has none. He’s a political hack: a lawyer who spent years in the state Assembly representing Manhattan’s gritty Upper East Side. His crusade against “deadly second hand smoke” won him the rapturous applause of anti-tobacco zealots and the Lung Association. According to his official bio, his pastimes include spearheading government intrusions into the markets for housing, auto and flood insurance, and health care. Free people and free markets be damned.

But who wants to make a big deal about those piles of smouldering leaves, anyway? Perfumistas should, that’s who. When Mr. Gannis proposes to ban perfume because of its high VOC content and potentially toxic trace components, do you think his fans at the American Lung Association, the Audubon Society, the Environmental Action Coalition, Common Cause, and the New York State Public Interest Group will suddenly pause, tug at his sleeve and say, “Hey, Pete, maybe we shouldn’t sacrifice beautiful fragrances on the alter of Gaia worship—let’s leave them alone”?

I don’t think so.

Today your leaves, tomorrow your cologne.

No burning leaves for you!


Olfacta said...

We've had the "burn ban" here for years. It has truly taken so much pleasure out of autumn walks. Boo.

Nathan Branch said...

My best memory of childhood is walking around the on chill Autumn weekends as the leaf raking and leaf burning was on in full-force. The entire (small) town smelled like burned leaves -- it was fantastic. I miss that smell.

Christopher Brosius at CB I Hate Perfume offers a good approximation of the smell of burning leaves with his "Burning Leaves" accord. It doesn't smell exactly like the real thing (how could it?), but there's just enough of that charred, smoky ghost to bring some nostalgic satisfaction to the day.

Avery Gilbert said...

Olfacta & Nathan Branch:

Should the leafy bonfires of freedom be extinguished without a protest? I think this is the moment for a Dada-ist political statement. What if someone loaded one of Mitch Heinrich's scent-graffiti spray cans with Burning Leaves by Christopher Brosius and spritzes a little around the offices of the NYDEC Commissioner?

Olfactory protest art!

Eliza said...

I agree! Having a bonfire is a wonderful thing. And the leaf raking that Nathan Branch mentions seems to be a thing of the past too. Whoever invented leaf blowers... So now there's no bonfire smoke, lots of noise and the smell of gasoline instead.

Avery Gilbert said...


Exactly. I'd like to see a comparative analysis of pollution from leafblowing a pile of leaves with an inefficient gas-powered motor and driving them to a dump versus raking and burning them in situ.