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Letters July 28: The hard choice between fossil fuels and survival; Cook Street roundabout an accident in waiting

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Protesters take part in a climate rally along Blanshard Street last September. Letter-writers are responding to last week’s duelling climate columns between retired businessman Gwyn Morgan and environmentalist David Suzuki. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Given a choice, which one do we believe?

News flash for Gwyn Morgan and David Suzuki: The world is addicted to oil, and kicking the habit, a path science tells us we must follow, will be very painful.

According to Suzuki, we can prevent profound human suffering if we stop ignoring climate-change warning signs and contain greed-driven, climate-changing behaviour.

Morgan, on the other hand, believes Suzuki’s solution is “the road to perdition.” Changing behaviour, in order to pay for our fossil-fuelled sins, will destroy livelihoods and bring on profound human suffering.

So, who do we believe?

Has Morgan lost touch with reality? Has gleefully fiddling with fossil-fuel profits prevented him from seeing real-world fires and flooding?

And what about Suzuki? Does he seriously believe it’s possible to put an end to fossil-fuelled greed and excess consumption?

The evidence against his approach is undeniable. Despite ongoing warnings, those living fossil-fueled lifestyles have not willingly constrained their biosphere-destroying, oil-addicted behaviour. It looks like global depopulation is a certainty.

We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

Ken Dwernychuk
Esquimalt

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

Re: “Disastrous results of green movement come home to roost,” commentary, July 23.

There is always fierce reaction to Gwyn Morgan’s thought-provoking commentaries, including criticism of this newspaper.

I would offer the following report by Fareed Zakaria on his CNN program on Sunday that of the 29,000 power plants worldwide, five per cent (or 1,500 power plants) produce 73 per cent of the greenhouse gases.

Those 1,500 worst polluters are coal-burning plants. The technology already exists today to convert them to gas-fired plants and it would have the single greatest impact of anything we can do now to tackle the problem.

Rather than condemning all fossil fuels and relying on the possibility of hydrogen, renewables or better batteries, we could be taking action now using existing technology while new forms of energy are developed.

It was reported that Germany’s closure of their clean-emissions nuclear-energy industry has been replaced with gas-fired plants and those will soon be replaced by coal-fired plants as Russia decreases its supply of gas to Europe.

Environmentalists need to refrain from all-or-nothing attitudes.

Wayne Cox
Saanichton

Diatribe was filled with misinformation

Re: “The disastrous consequences of the green movement,” commentary, July 23.

The commentary was little more than a disingenuous diatribe by “a retired ­business leader who has been a director of five global ­corporations.” His credentials and opinions together say much about why we are now facing an unprecedented global environmental catastrophe.

Gwyn Morgan’s list of “actions and consequences” contains so many half-truths, non-sequiturs, false dichotomies and plain misinformation that it would take another column to fully rebut. Suffice to say that he might know much about how to make profits, avoid pesky carbon taxes and glibly dismiss government and public concerns about atmospheric pollution, but he knows precious little about the real world in which we all live.

He evinces most concern about energy and food supplies. Seen only through the lens of “business as usual,” his response to these problems is more burning of fossil fuels, more industrial agriculture, more pesticides and keep eating meat — all practices that led to the crisis in the first place.

We need energy to produce our food and other requirements. The clue of which sources of energy are the best to use on a finite planet is in the names: renewable and non-renewable. Failing to switch as quickly as possible from the latter will only continue our suicidal path of increasing pollution, environmental destruction and loss of vital species and ecosystems. In the end, we will run out of finite resources anyway.

The writer concludes his comments by saying: “No wonder conspiracy theorists believe the green movement’s ultimate goal is to save the environment through global depopulation.” Perhaps in his delusional world the human population, like profits, can climb forever.

It’s not about “saving the environment” so much as saving a world that is habitable for humans and other species. In my list of actions and consequences, the act of continuing political and economic systems that flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries will ensure a future that more closely resembles life before the last ice age. Call me an environmental zealot if you will.

Eric Grace
Victoria

A close call at a roundabout

As I was walking north on the west side of Cook Street toward Oliphant, a sedan came east on Oliphant, and drove into the roundabout at Cook at speed and without pausing.

The sedan looped the roundabout, basically making a left-hand turn onto Cook, and at the same time a very large pickup truck, the kind with large wheels and a raised body, entered the roundabout going north on Cook.

The sedan and the pickup were on a collision course. The pickup driver veered sharply right and up onto the boulevard, very narrowly avoiding what would have been a very nasty impact with the smaller sedan.

What was going on here? According to a City of Victoria tweet: “The new roundabout at Cook Street and Southgate Street helps to slow traffic and improve safety. Need some refreshers? [a link is provided for roundabout safety].”

The driver of the sedan obviously missed the message about slowing traffic. The driver of the pickup was lucky he didn’t take out a child, dog, or other living being when he drove onto the boulevard in a split second move to avoid a smash-up.

So much for improved safety. Simply plunking a roundabout into an existing urban intersection, without adequate approaches and space, which would provide an allowance for driver error, was quite simply foolhardy.

Martha McNeely
Oak Bay

Did not always agree, but food for thought

I was saddened to hear that Lawrie McFarlane will not be contributing his observations and opinions on local and other issues anymore.

Whether I agreed with him or not, I never missed the opportunity to read his column; it was very frequently food for thought; and I think this was his most important contribution and attribute.

Thank you, Lawrie, for 20 years of interesting, thought-provoking and often humorous writings. You will be missed by TC readers.

John Stevenson
Victoria

Thanks, Lawrie, for your common sense

Re: “Cambie Surgery Centre ruling right decision, wrong reasons,” column, July 24.

Another fine column. I will miss Lawrie McFarlane’s common-sense pieces each week.

While I wish him a happy and well-deserved “retirement,” I’m sorry to see him go.

Jean Reid
Saanich

Mischaracterization of appeal-court reasoning

Re: “Cambie Surgery Centre ruling right decision, wrong reasons,” column, July 24.

Lawrie McFarlane rightly points out that doctors in B.C. can un-enrol from the public scheme and charge whatever they want for treatments performed in private facilities, and that “by retaining their public-sector privileges, Day’s physicians are trying to have it both ways.”

Contrary to what McFarlane suggests, however, the appeal court in no way intimated that “the reasonable-limits test is met so long as the government is doing its best and treating patients in an even-handed manner, consequences be damned.”

Under the “reasonable limits” clause, courts must weigh the interests of the individuals whose Charter rights are affected by the legislation against the importance of the legislative objectives, the competing interests of others and broader societal interests.

The court found there was ample evidence to support the trial judge’s conclusion that expanding the ability of some to buy faster treatment, by allowing dual practice and duplicate private health insurance, would have a negative effect on the public system and those who continue to rely on it, among other things by diverting human resources into a more lucrative competing private system.

Those adversely affected would include older people, lower-income people and those in poor health, who would be unable to afford a private option and/or qualify for duplicate private health insurance, were it available, and who would likely face even longer wait times and an increased risk of harm.

Whether or not the government is “doing its best” is irrelevant.

Sandra Macpherson
Victoria

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