MAIL BAG

February 18 2008

MAIL BAG

February 18 2008

MAIL BAG

‘Comparing a person with ADHD who takes Ritalin with an alcoholic is simply wrong’

PREGNANT PAUSES

PRIVILEGED YOUNG WOMEN will certainly fare better than their poor counterparts when it comes to teen pregnancy (“Suddenly teen pregnancy is cool?” Society, Jan. 28). What saddens me is how invisible and/or blamed marginalized young mothers continue to be. While it may be Hollywood chic to have a baby on your hip, it is criminal to be poor, uneducated and pregnant. As a society, let’s continue to celebrate the success stories, but let’s not forget that 1.5 million children in Canada live in poverty and that single mothers make up one of every two families living in poverty. If we can continue to break down the societal stigmatization facing young mothers, why not rebuild a social support/safety net for them too?

Laura Kucenty, Pregnancy and Parenting Worker, The Shout Clinic, Toronto

WHAT YOUR ARTICLE indicated is that teenage pregnancy is just another little slide down the slippery slope of the demise of Western civilization. And you managed to make it sound like a fun thing to do.

W. A Cosway, Ottawa

I WASN’T SURPRISED by your story. Perhaps it’s because it’s only been four years since I left high school, and the idea of so many young girls not only becoming pregnant but desiring to be with child was a commonplace thing. My high school even had a daycare program specifically to accommodate students and staff, although the main users of the program were students. What’s ironic, though, is that despite the school’s acknowledgement of teen pregnancy, there was not one condom dispenser in the entire school or any sex education courses.

Chelse McKee, Winnipeg

THE ARTICLE NEEDED to spend more time on the real world of children having children: interrupted or halted schooling; financial difficulties; increased demand for social welfare and subsidized housing; more single-parent families; and even more pressure on the struggling health care system.

Geoff King, Ottawa

DOES WRITER CATHY GULLI honestly believe that teens continue their pregnancies because of the influence of movies and celebrity preg-

nancies? Maybe this new phenomenon has more to do with the complete change in family dynamics over the past 30 years. Maybe as parents become more involved in their careers and themselves and less interested in the lives of their children, there is increased independence in young women—and men— but not necessarily wisdom. Maybe the overall lack of accountability that dominates our society might have something to do with the new trend? In the film Juno, which Gulli mentions, the young woman is smart, and is guided by supportive people. Her idealism about love is transformed by her relationship

with the open adoption parents-to-be and her relationship with the teenage father of her baby. She experiences an awakening, and the movie is hopeful. There is nothing hopeful about real children having babies and keeping them.

Deb Urbanowicz, Hamilton

GRRRR, BARBARA AMIEL

USUALLY, WHEN I SEE Barbara Amiel’s face at the top of one of her columns, I turn the page. This time I read the story in which she mentioned Ritalin (“Is Ritalin giving some kids an unfair boost?” Opinion, Jan. 28) and, yes, she succeeded in irritating me again. I have to assume Amiel feels she knows everything and her opinion is the right one every time. I couldn’t possibly have fibromyalgia; I must just be depressed and tired. My son couldn’t possibly be benefiting from taking his medication, despite a sudden ability to

direct his attention to schoolwork for more than 10 minutes at a time and a definite improvement in his mood. I just hope I never have to be cared for by someone like Amiel whose expertise comes from a creative interpretation of the real world.

Coral Bentley, Guelph, Ont.

I WAS APPALLED at Amiel’s absence of understanding on the topic of ADHD. It was obvious that she had neither taken the time to understand the medical condition, nor to speak to experts on how medicines are prescribed for it. If she had, she might have noted that ADHD is a neurological condition diagnosed by a medical doctor. I cannot imagine any doctor making a diagnosis and prescribing medicine to provide a student an unfair academic advantage. In fact, the notion is beyond ludicrous. Would Amiel accuse someone of an unfair advantage for using glasses?

Heidi Bernhardt, Executive Director, Centre for ADD/ADHD Advocacy Canada, Toronto

COMPARING A PERSON who has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes Ritalin to a drug addict or alcoholic is simply wrong. My son did not choose to have this imbalance. Perhaps the most disturbing comment is Amiel’s comparison of taking Ritalin to taking steroids. This infers that the parent is giving a child Ritalin without a proper diagnosis or a prescription from a doctor. This is very insulting to a parent who has done the research and got the proper treatment for her loved one. Has Ritalin given my son an unfair advantage? Absolutely not. He had an unfair disadvantage from birth and Ritalin has merely helped him cope in areas where the majority of his fellow students do not have trouble. Julie McDonald, Mississauga, Ont.

BEARING THE BRUNT

YOUR REPORT ON the fate of the Canadian polar bear population is an honourable attempt to present a controversial issue in a balanced way. Unfortunately, in this case your eagerness to be fair created a distorted image of what’s at stake. As someone who recently travelled to the shores of Hudson Bay to observe polar bears and to be guided by Parks Canada experts through Wapusk National Park, I was able to see the fragile and hurting state that this eco-region on the southern edge of the Arctic is in. The ice

melts earlier year by year and freezes later, the bears get food for shorter periods of time every year, their population shrinks noticeably, and since the territories further north are already occupied by other bear populations, the number of bears roaming the shores of Hudson Bay will further decline until the last bear will have died of malnutrition. And this will, in the long run, be the fate of polar bears in regions which at this point still seem to be better protected. Unfortunately, your story mostly focused on regions much further north, especially Nunavut, where the immediate impact of global warming might only be seen many years from now. But just because the local hunters you interviewed don’t notice any changes yet, this cannot lead us to the wrong conclusion that maybe things are not as bad as they look in the more vulnerable southern areas. You quoted scientists as saying that there is no way to project exactly how many bears will live or die at what time in the future. But once we have these numbers based on reliable evidence, it will be too late.

Lars von Toerne, Toronto

THE AUTHORS of your story on the polar bear, Colin Campbell and Kate Lunau, have committed the all too common error of

reporting a scientific controversy related to climate change and polar bears where none exists (“The war over the polar bear,” Science, Feb. 4). There is more agreement about the scientific principles of climate change than nearly any other area of science. Lately, however, the melting of the Arctic ice cap has far outstripped projections. Similarly, there is no scientific controversy about the detrimental impact of global warming on polar

bears. While there may be a political controversy in Canada, there is certainly no scientific controversy.

Moreover, the subtitle of the article, “Who’s telling the truth about the fate of a Canadian icon?”, implies that one of the three groups featured in the article—the Inuit, polar bear experts, or conservationists—is lying about climate change and polar bears. There is no evidence that any of these groups is lying, and

‘So baseball has the greatest inaction-to-action ratio while soccer has the least. So what? Baseball is a thinking man’s game. Anyone can chase an inflated ball around a big field all day.’

there is no reason to spin the story this way. What has been demonstrated is that some corporations, such as Exxon-Mobil, have manufactured a perception of uncertainty in

climate change science by funding a small handful of pseudo-scientists to continue to promote discredited theories. The media has allowed this reprehensible campaign to succeed. This inaccurate and irresponsible reporting has had a profound impact on the public’s perception of global warming and has impeded the adoption of solutions to it.

Unfortunately, your story continues the mistake of falsely reporting scientific controversy, and therefore creating a misperception that perhaps it is acceptable to continue to delay solutions to global warming. In fact, the Arctic has reached a critical threshold, and what is happening there is a harbinger for what’s to come for the rest of the world if we do not reduce greenhouse gas pollution immediately. We must act now to protect not only the polar bear, but ourselves as well. Kassie Siegel, Climate, Air, and Energy Program Director, Center for Biological Diversity, Joshua Tree, Calif

IT IS NOW THE polar bear that is to be saved. Previously, it has been save the seal, the wolf, the grizzly, the whale and so on. The result of all this saving has been that the wilderness is completely out of balance. The seal population has tripled, causing our fish stocks to be depleted. The wolf populations are com-

pletely out of balance, causing the ungulates to decline dramatically. On Vancouver Island, for example, the deer population has declined from about 250,000 to about 50,000.

Likewise, in the Far North, a caribou herd of about 400,000 has been reduced to about 180,000. How could all this happen and how can it continue? It is all about these powerful NGOs who are claiming that they are saving our wild resources. No, these organizations are not interested in saving anything. They are only interested in collecting donations from a misinformed public.

Our governments are telling us that wildlife management is to be based on science. Well, the science used on the polar bear is pure junk. Unfortunately, governments are not interested in wildlife management. They are only interested in vote management.

Jorgen V. Jensen, North Vancouver, B.C.

THE SAD REASON polar bears have become the poster animals of the environmental groups is because they are so darn cute. If polar bears looked like crocodiles or some other ugly beast there’d be a lot less anguish over their supposed demise. And since no one seems able to agree on whether their populations are shrinking or not, it hardly seems fair to destroy a whole culture because an animal is adorable. Any environmental policy should not be based on this kind of Disneyish cuddliness.

Pat Brown, London, Ont.

ATTENTION, SPORTS FANS

FINALLY SOMEONE took a stopwatch to our popular sports and revealed how much downtime there really is (“Sleeper bowl,” Sports, Feb. 4). Jay Teitel’s article provides a very good reason to steer our children toward high-action sports. What is also fascinating is why we support sports where there isn’t much actual play. Huge overbearing media hype may have something to do with it and, of course, all those breaks allow for a lot of

commercials on TV, whereas fans at the actual game suffer through those interruptions being entertained by sideshow distractions and ear-splitting music. No wonder soccer presents a problem for the short attention span of the average sports fan.

Phil Cottrell, Westmeath, Ont.

SO BASEBALL HAS the greatest inaction-toaction ratio while soccer has the least. So what? Standing around, crotch scratching, sunflower-seed spitting and bubble-gum chewing are all parts of baseball’s charm. And baseball is the thinking man’s game. Once the ball’s in motion, mathematical and mechanical calculations have to be made in split seconds with nine players becoming one efficient and disciplined machine. Anyone can chase an inflated ball around a big field all day.

Fraser Petrick, Kingston, Ont.

BASED ON THE INDEX, if I was really bored I could put a stopwatch on my neighbour as he begins to cut his lawn, stop the clock for grass-bag emptying, and when he is done, assign a favourable action-to-inaction ratio. Or, if there were no lawnmowers in sight, I might be desperate enough to watch soccer, a sport that illustrates that a ticking clock and real action can be mutally exclusive.

Stuart Pegg, Ottawa

IN PASSING

Suharto, 86, Indonesian president. As an army general he seized power from Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, in 1967 In the ensuing purges, his vigilantes killed or tortured as many as one million people, including alleged Communists and ethnic Chinese. Efforts to prosecute him for allegedly looting the nation of billions were stymied by his ill health.

Robert Weaver, 87, man of letters. Widely known as the godfather of modern Canadian literature, through his short-story collections and his CBC Radio program, Anthology, he promoted the careers of the likes of Mordecai Richler, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and many others. He founded the long-running literary magazine The Tamarack Review.