On Dec. 7, Toronto’s city council delivered the rarest of political creatures — a new tax with broad public support. The tax on billboards was proposed to help enforce the bylaws governing signs, and also fund public art to offset the blight of outdoor advertising.
Even as it was passed, the reform package is a victory for the public space activists, community groups and artists who pushed it through council. Toronto’s 13 separate sets of bylaws have been harmonized, and for once may be enforced, thanks to new fines. Changes to the zoning variance process will make approving new signs more difficult. The tax will generate an estimated $10.4 million each year.
From a distance, I assume the limp figures falling from the sky are people. Then the camera draws closer, and I see that they are polar bears, hurtling towards a generic metropolis, bouncing off buildings and leaving behind stomach-turning splashes of blood. They land, by the dozen, and lie still.
“An average European flight produces over 400kg of greenhouse gases for every passenger,” I read. “That’s the weight of an adult polar bear.”
Only then do I realize that I’ve been watching an ad about climate change, from U.K. anti-aviation campaigners Plane Stupid. The spot has been developed for cinemas. But in the slick streets of the Internet, it’s hard to say whether the gore will land where it is supposed to.