June 23 2003


June 23 2003


‘SARS, West Nile and mad cow deserve our attention, but the three horsemen aren’t saddling up just yet

NOW ÍS not the time to panic.’ -CHRISTOPHERAndrews,Tottenham,ont.

Letters to the Editor:

Perspective is everything

Up to now, fewer than 900 people worldwide have died from SARS since its emergence several months ago, yet uncounted millions of dollars have been spent on research, treatment and education about the disease (Cover, June 9). The cases and deaths from West Nile virus are even fewer. Yet each day, thousands die of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS-related causes. We have the technology and, in most cases, the medicines to treat these devastating diseases. What we lack is the political will to do so. Let’s put less energy and money into the overdeveloped world’s diseases and tackle those that can really make an impact on the oppressed and disempowered.

Dr. Robert C. Dickson, Calgary

It is impossible not to sympathize with Toronto’s predicament, suffering as she does the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Having recently received a cutting taken from the British paper the Independent of May 11,2003,1 would concur with Jonathan Durbin’s well-rounded piece (“Fear Factory,” June 9). In a feature on Canadian photographer/artist Edward Burtynsky, who has an exhibition of work in a London gallery, the tone is set in the opening sentence: “When I get through to Edward Burtynsky, he’s in the middle of a plague.” Burtynsky, far from discouraging this hyperbole, is quoted describing Toronto as “the new leper colony of the jet age.” It is precisely this irresponsibly casual propagation of the SARS myth that causes misery well beyond those unfortunate enough to have been infected by the insidious virus. As Samuel Johnson said in 1778: “It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.”

Robin Anderson, Oakville, Ont.

Tobacco smoke causes more than 80 per cent of all lung cancers, 25 per cent of all heart attacks and 25 per cent of all strokes. Tobacco kills 45,000 people a year, more than all other preventable causes of death and dis-

ease in Canada put together. A long-term smoker’s chances of dying from tobacco are 50-50. And chances are quite a few of these smokers will help kill quite a few non-smokers along the way, too. So why was tobacco omitted from the article on risk and the accompanying “What are the chances?” chart on causes of death?

P. C. Holt, Toronto

Thank goodness someone in the media finally stated the obvious. Bless you, Mr. WilsonSmith, for putting the health scare in perspective (The Editor’s Letter, June 2). Why people are so forgetful and complacent baffles me—when I mention the discovery of antibiotics as something fairly recent in history, I am met with a confused stare. The same applies when I mention the illnesses that are mutating rapidly and resisting cure, as well as those without cures in other parts of the world. Can we really as an “educated” society be this ignorant?

Dr. Carol Nicolle, Delta, B.C.

What’s your source?

Your brief Iraq report (The Week, June 9) notes that six U.S. soldiers were killed and 24 were wounded in various incidents. How did you learn that the sniper attacks came from “guerrilla fighters loyal to Saddam

Hussein.” Did you interview these men before, during or after the firelights? Isn’t it plausible that these are simply Iraqis who want the Americans—and all the destruction they bring with them—to get out of their country?

Rob Breadner, Toronto

Crime against humanity

I hope the “one cow” problem in Alberta becomes serious enough for the regulators, ranchers and feedlot operators to realize it is not wise to feed cows to pigs and pigs to cows, let alone cows to cows. And who is watching in the rendering plants or in the pellet-manufacturing plants to see that no cow parts get into the pig mix and no pig parts get into the cow mix? Animals should at least have the right not to be forced to eat themselves. If this happened in the human world it would be considered a crime against humanity punishable by law.

Mary Aird, Regina

Growth economics

In stating the problems facing our wildlife, you suggest helpful courses of corrective action such as committing to the David Suzuki Foundation’s laudable suggestions. As the foundation well knows, however, and has eloquently addressed, the underlying cause of virtually all environmental problems is our maintenance of an economic system that functions on a constantly increasing consumption of goods and services. Conservation measures that avoid that basic problem do little more than slow the rate of increase of degradation. “Live large” is the slogan of one recent ad— “you owe it to yourself,” says another. Call it greed and gluttony, if you want, but it keeps the system rolling with the technical fix hiding the bad parts.

John Raycroft, Prescott, Ont.

Subversive insights

Although it is clear that one cannot rely solely on mainstream media for accurate reporting of almost any issue these days, it is very refreshing to read Peter Mansbridge’s mainstream column that asks clear and legitimate questions (“The ‘Real’ Iraq Story,” June 9). In a climate where his words will inevitably be lauded as courageous or frowned upon as distinctly anti-American, I applaud Mansbridge for speaking his mind.

Pedro Fernandez, Kitchener, Ont.

Conflicting values

In “Educated and Adrift” (Over to You, June 9, 2003) Lisa V. Robles argues that pursuing a liberal arts program (in archaeology and environmental studies) at university equipped her with critical thinking skills that cause her to question everything. Now, as a graduate, she cannot figure out what she wants to do, and blames her university studies for this post-graduate lack of direction. Robles concludes by counselling those admitted to university to choose a “specific career” while those “lucky enough” not to be selected should go backpacking. Yet in an era when access to university education is being continually restricted, such advice feeds the conservative, populist notion that the liberal arts are a frivolous waste of time and resources. Robles seems to suggest that we ought to scrap such programs and stream young people into corporatefriendly training programs so that they’ll end up “getting the Land Rover, wearing the suits, doing lunch.” But there are, in fact, many recent graduates who are committed to the ideals that led them through university, who do commit to “the NGO thing,” or the archaeological thing, and still pay their exorbitant student loans without compromising their values. Robles’s cynicism is an insult to the hard work of all these individuals.

Timothy Pettipiece, Sainte-Foy, Que.

Auditing Ottawa

Auditor General Sheila Fraser shouldn’t fear she is undermining our faith in Ottawa with critical reports (“One tough questioner,” MaryJanigan, June 2). We already have very low expectations that Ottawa continually fails to meet. My hope is that one day the auditor general will be in a position to release a report that doesn’t find anything to be critical of and assures us that our tax dollars are being well spent. Until then, my only faith is that auditors general will continue to do exactly what they have been doing: providing some value for their portion of our tax dollars.

Donald McLellan, Vancouver

Learning to love nature

I am a retired elementary schoolteacher who taught for 36 years in Ontario and was disturbed to read “How to heal nature” (Cover, June 2) about the problems besetting our natural habitat in Canada. When I

started teaching, children learned to identify plants and animals by sight. Youngsters watched the wildlife around them and marvelled at it. They truly learned to appreciate the world. Over the years, the curriculum has changed and now leans almost entirely toward chemistry, physics and mathematics and away from natural science. We must return to an appreciation of the environment; we must teach young children to observe and love nature and the creatures around them. Until we have done this, I can’t see these folks as adults even noticing that our wildlife is disappearing.

Ruth Ann Windover, Sarnia, Ont.

A ship full of holes

There’s a big difference between a politician and a leader (“Troublesome Tories,” June 16). True leaders, left, right or centre, enter politics with a powerful, driving philosophy that shapes their policies, and they build a ship with a destination in mind. Politicians, on the other hand, really don’t care about the destination—their only goal is to be captain of the ship. They’ll sail anywhere just so they can wear the hat and hold the wheel. Sadly, federal Conservative leader Peter MacKay showed, in spectacular fashion, that he’s only a politician. He took over the PC ship, but he shot it full of holes. The passengers are drowning, and MacKay hasn’t the vaguest idea where we’re going. SOS. Stephan Matusch, Sudbury, Ont.

Home is where the heart is

Based on my 45 years of real estate experience, I wish Donald Coxe would stick to his acknowledged area of expertise. His article

“Words of caution” (Column, June 2), regarding the inadvisability of buying a home in the current market, came over as being two streets removed from reality. The private home, according to a recent national public opinion survey by Compas Inc., is seen as the best retirement investment in Canada. Home buyers are seldom much concerned about the business aspect of their actions, but are more motivated by tradition, family, security, a sense ofbelonging, pride of ownership and the fact that one has to live somewhere. There have been many poor times to sell, but there has seldom been a poor time to buy one’s own home.

Bill Towler, Chilliwack, B.C.

‘Gender blinders’

I was disappointed in your “Understanding gender” cover stories (May 26). Unfortunately, there was little of illuminating scholarship and lots of the same old “boys will be boys” diatribe. Our society has slowly accepted that some whites can dance, some blacks can quarterback and some Asians hate science, and yet we hold onto our gender blinders with unnatural ferocity. Sexism and homophobia continue to prevent girls and boys from venturing outside of their defined gender boundaries. I’m not saying that there aren’t hormonal differences that kick in later in adolescence, but let’s stop assigning gender to everything and honestly give children a chance to explore who they are as individuals.

Catherine Lake, Toronto

Honour Roll

I would like to nominate Gary Hyland for the Maclean’s 18th annual Honour Roll. Hyland is an award-winning writer who has worked hard to improve the quality of life on the Prairies. He is the driving force behind Moose Jaw’s three-day Festival of Words, which celebrates Canadian literary artists each summer.

Janie Fries, Moose Jaw, Sask.

For the past three decades, the dedicated volunteer women of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter have been helping thousands of victims. Each year, they receive over 1,200 calls and shelter over 120 women and their children. This amazing group is deserving of inclusion on your Honour Roll.

Paris Marshall Smith, Vancouver