The Trees: Speaking to the Issue

My friend Colleen and I were chatting this morning, as we do from time to time.  Our chats are filled with banter about animal ethics, environmental issues, and we also very often speak about the problematic ways in which human beings behave.  There is often an emphasis on sheeplism and our frustrations in dealing with this.

During our banter, she mentioned a song called The Trees which is both written and performed by the iconic Canadian rock band Rush.  Since I have always been about as far away from the mainstream as possible, I had never heard this song.  My loss.  It is really great; meaningful on a lot of levels.

The way that this song connected to something that has been on my mind for the last bit was timely.  For the last few days I have been thinking a lot about the rules.  Not the dating book series, but the rules of society.  These rules, while put in place for the good of the whole, lost sight of a lot of things that are perfectly sensible.  Specifically, I am speaking about Tiny Houses and the Bylaws that prohibit people from making choices that are better for the land, environment, mental health and in a million and one ways are greater than any McMansion can ever possibly be.

I have for three days had the story on my mind about the fellow who bought some acres in the US and whose neighbour harassed him from the day that he moved there.  The story* messed up on so many levels, sort of Deliverance meets the Tiny House movement.  The post is interesting but here is my synopsis of it this Deliverance story, the blogger bought land and put a tiny house on it.  He hoped to live there for two years but made it only 5 months, in the time that he lived there he was constantly harassed and subjected to all sort of crazy from a weirdo next door (my words, not his).

The question is, who would you rather have for a neighbour?  A quiet person whose house is so small that you can’t see it and who leaves the land as natural as it was when the planet formed, or a lout who blares his music, lets his kid, big scary dogs and insanity into your life every day just because you happen to live next door?  You guessed it, the lout called the government and they are making him remove his Tiny House from his land.  It seems wrong that an innocuous Tiny House can be considered wrong in anyone’s mind.

I am of the opinion that the legality of Tiny Houses should not be questioned.  This should not be an issue.  If indeed laws are put in place to protect people then who exactly is this law protecting?  Why would anyone think that a Tiny House is dangerous?

Is this because refusing to participate in a consumer lifestyle is not acceptable and therefore a crime?

Here are the wonderful lyrics to the song that I think speaks to this issue.

“The Trees”

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas
The trouble with the maples
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade
There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream ‘Oppression!’
And the oaks just shake their heads
So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw
Categories: Art, Environmentalism, Forest, Materialism, Money, Off Grid, Ontario, Open your eyes, Sustainable living, Tiny House Ontario | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “The Trees: Speaking to the Issue

  1. “The Man” doesnt like ppl to be independant of utilities, jobs, and makes no money on tiny home taxes. Some bylaws are well made to protect the neighborhood from unsightly buildings, shacks, collections of junk. But I never knew that you couldnt build a “cabin” less than 700 sq ft unless it was 108 sq ft! That makes entirely no sense whatsoever.

    • I know eh!? Nuts, isn’t it! Insurance too is a REAL problem for us.
      Currently, my land is covered but my Tiny House is not. It is a worry. I know that they are not too expensive to build but still, it takes a long time to build as you pay for it and it is more money than zero which is what I will get if THO burns.

      Sigh… L

  2. Bonnie Smith

    It is interesting to see things from another perspective. I wouldn’t mind paying taxes for the services that I may have need of… at this time there is no way I can live near the people I love to be with and live in a tiny house of any kind due to the by-laws on house size, let alone composting toilets and grey water vs septic systems ($20 000) and what I have to have in my house due to code.

    • I feel the same way about it. I love the forest and I am happy that I am there, but at the same time I also love downtown life which is always a close walk to see music or have a visit with others. It would be ideal to be able to build a Tiny House (community) right downtown! In Vancouver they remade an old hotel into Tiny Apartments and MOST cities will have these old buildings that could be (for some cost) transformed into Tiny livable and affordable spaces).
      I absolutely don’t mind paying for the services I use, or paying for them for others who are less fortunate in health/age/circumstances, education, public healthcare. I believe strongly in public policies that give us universal healthcare, free education and take care of people who are not able to do so for whatever the reasons may be.
      What I do not want to pay for is the waste, like G20, prison for mentally ill people, chauffeurs and rented luxury cars for elected persons or $16 orange juice.
      OK… that is a bit of a rant… I could go on and on and on….

  3. I am in NO way suggesting that I agree with the crappy neighbor or the laws that made him ‘right’ and Jonathan ‘wrong’. Over the last few months I have gotten to know Jonathan fairly well and I feel terrible that this is happening to him. Like he says though, it is going to be a good thing, for him (I would be heart-broken). I think the issues he brings to the surface are important to talk about when talking about tiny houses. Like with any set of systems, if you want real change in our laws to include tiny houses you need to work within the system to make that change occur. I am going to try to state a couple of reasons why the laws are how they are in hopes of providing a way to talk with city jurisdictions and change the way tiny houses are thought of. Change could after all be a benefit for cities AND for tiny house owners.

    For the city (or state in Jonathan’s case), there is no way to quantify the value of a tiny house, if it is on wheels then technically it isn’t even considered a dwelling but instead a temporary structure. The problem most (all) jurisdictions have with tiny houses is that they have no way to tax one and therefore have made laws that say they are unacceptable within city limits. It is partially my goal to contest this idea and find a compromise between tiny house owners and local jurisdictions. You may think ‘well that’s an over-involved government imposing things that aren’t ‘right” (which I would COMPLETELY agree with, but this is the system we have set up). Cities outlaw tiny houses for some of the same reasons they are attractive to people like myself, they don’t follow codes and they aren’t ‘permanent’. Cities rely on tax funding. Tiny house owners don’t pay taxes on their dwelling. The tax money, in most cases (there are a lot areas in the states that don’t work like this but the majority of them do…) is what funds the fire stations, police stations, schools and other benefits that come with being in cities. Therefore a person owning a tiny house, living in a city/town that is enjoying these systems is not paying into them the same as all the other dwellings in the jurisdiction are. I believe the solution is to work with the jurisdictions to create a fair rate for tiny house dwellers, and most likely a different designation than a mobile home/RV for them. I would certainly not balk at paying into these community assets, there is simply not a system for quantifying it right now so its ‘illegal’ (I have heard that Portland is the only city to date working on this aspect, which is great news!). Tiny houses are generally allowed in rural areas outside of city zones.

    There is no way to ‘fix’ crappy neighbors however, and they seem to be everywhere, ‘you can’t fix stupid’ ;-)… I do hope we can find a solution and be able to peacefully allow tiny houses in city centers. I personally am building a tiny house, I adore the idea and the lifestyle and I am also a city type of person, I want to remain a city person. It does seem to be the biggest obstacle to find a place to park it where you can enjoy the city lifestyle and not worry about being evicted… I don’t really feel like it’s an ‘us-against-them’ battle, it’s just educating leaders, working in the system we have set up so they can find ways to accommodate the demand for tiny house living.

    I’m sorry for the rant, it just struck me to put my thoughts into words.

    Awesome blog! 🙂


  4. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I think the laws regarding small houses is ridiculous. And the problem is, they are considered “illegal” in many places. I view tiny house living as a little bit of civil disobedience. Tiny house dwellers are not hurting anyone but they are also bringing the issue to the public.

    The blogger in question was Jonathan – his user name is Gungy on Livejournal. I sympathize with his situation and I wish him the best. The best news – his tiny house is on wheels!

    By the way – I love Rush. Must be my Canadian ancestry. Or the fact that I grew up in Detroit so we listened to a lot of Canadian music.

  5. …and furthermore, what’s he going to do now? Brag to all his friends that he got a man who wasn’t breaking any laws to move off because he harassed and bullied him? It seems to me that this speaks volumes to the INjustice system. It protects bullies. It does not protect the ‘little’ guy. Vigilantism is starting to look appealing. It truly has gotten to a state where the law’s hands are cuffed, and it seems to me that’s just the way they like it.

  6. That lout is a big oak!

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