Pets before people
Re Who Needs Whom? (Aug. 3): We live in the “Dog Raj,” where dogs (and cats) rule; a Western society that is profoundly lonely and perversely attached to its pets.
One billion children live in poverty globally, suffering from malnutrition and lack of sanitation, health care and education.
Nearly one Canadian child in seven lives in poverty. Looking only at Canadian aboriginal children, it’s worse: One child in four lives in poverty.
We spend more on dog and cats than on other human beings. Perspective, values and priorities are sadly lacking.
Bill Sundhu, Kamloops, B.C.
What goes in …
Re An Inconvenient Truth (Focus, Aug. 3): It’s helpful to know that owning a medium-sized dog has the same impact as driving an SUV.
More helpful information: A 2006 study by University of Chicago scientists Pamela Martin and Gidon Eshel concluded that the difference in environmental impact between a person eating a diet that includes lots of meat, eggs, and dairy products, and a person eating a vegan diet is also equivalent to the environmental impact of one SUV.
Let’s keep our dogs (but feed the overfed ones less), give up our SUVs and go vegan. We’d all be happier and healthier – and so would the planet.
Don LePan, Nanaimo, B.C.
When I read that owning a dog is the same as driving an SUV for a year, I couldn’t believe it. And I don’t believe it.
I have been calculating carbon footprints for more than 10 years. I did some quick calculations and, based on Brenda and Roberts Vales’ assumptions about how much a dog eats, my calculations say that a medium dog’s food has about one-quarter of the carbon footprint of driving an SUV for a year, without even considering manufacturing the vehicle.
I accept that dogs and other pets have a significant impact. But the same as SUVs? That doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Duncan Noble, P. Eng., Killaloe, Ont.
You tell us our dog can aspire to produce two-thirds of a pound of poop a day when she’s full-grown.
Meanwhile, each of our resident flock of more than 100 Canada Geese on nearby Granville Island poops, on average, every 20 minutes, dropping up to a pound and a half a day of the stuff on local parks and pathways, winter and summer.
We pick up after our dog, using biodegradable bags. The geese? Not so much.
Paul Grant, Vancouver
Trains and planes
Re VIA Rail Eyes More Security Measures (Aug. 5): As a former railway employee, I find the drive to turn the train into a plane to achieve security ludicrous. On long-distance trains, the engineer is quite removed from passenger coaches. If a passenger is threatening, the crew contacts the nearest police unit to arrange a predetermined stop, where the police will be waiting to take necessary action.
The biggest threat to train safety is derailment at speed at some especially vulnerable spot. What is really needed, always, is constant track monitoring and good maintenance.
Robert McInnes, Victoria
MOOCs in the mix
Re Students Are Cool With MOOCs, So Why Aren’t Professors? (Aug. 5): This professor is very cool with MOOCs (massive open online courses). In May/June, I ran the first community college MOOC in Canada, on Applied Sustainability. Students loved the course, especially the free part. Our 17-per-cent completion rate doubled that of a typical Coursera MOOC. I suspect only a handful would have taken us up on a credit option.
Dino 101 at the University of Alberta is free for the masses, but will cost $263 for the few students at U of A or other universities willing to take proctored exams. Such monetization methods may give universities one way to fund the high cost of offering interesting and unique MOOCs.
The future posited by the curmudgeonly Jonathan Rees in Slate of star professors and an army of unpaid teaching assistants (sounds like first-year university currently!) is just needlessly scary.
Wendy Wilson, MOOC co-ordinator, Fanshawe College, London, Ont.
For the better
Re Far From Home, Closer To Peace (Aug. 3): As a member of JSpaceCanada, I was delighted to read Patrick Martin’s article about Camp Shomria, which brings Jewish and Arab youth together. It’s easy to be cynical, to never deviate from the perceptions we have of others, to stay within our own comfort zone. How much more difficult it is, how much more courage is required to confront our own prejudices, to admit that perhaps we are wrong, and try to understand others.
After their Shomria experience, the teens visited Toronto before heading home. I hosted two of the boys; apart from showing them Toronto, I learned about them and reached across the divide that separates so many of us. I am now in contact with one of their mothers.
Ten Muslim teens and 10 Jewish teens from Israel are not going to solve the Mideast conundrum, but the more barriers we overcome between us, the better our lives and world will be.
Francine Dick, Toronto
Vive la France
Re France Isn’t All Croissants, But C’est La Vie (Aug. 5): Two years ago, my wife and I had the great good fortune to visit Vimy Ridge, one of the most profound, moving experiences in our lives. After Vimy, we toured down to the Mediterranean to Le Lavendou and visited numerous towns and cities on our way back to Paris.
Without exception, we found the French to be courteous, helpful and friendly. They could not have been nicer to us. Judging from our experience, the comment that “for some tourists, the disappointment is just too much to take” is baseless.
If they are disappointed in France, I wonder what their experience would be like as a tourist in Canada. Vive la France.
Bob Erwin, Ottawa
The cat’s meow
As someone who over the years has cared for many cats, including ferals, and who is currently the servant to three demanding dowagers and a cuddly count, I found John Allemang’s article on the interaction of humans and their pets very informative (Who Needs Whom? – Focus, Aug. 3).
He writes that, unlike domesticated cats, cats in the wild purr and meow as kittens but rarely as adults. John Bradshaw, the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, theorizes that this vocalizing is a private language between the indoor feline and its owner.
I’m not convinced. I believe it’s because we humans keep house cats in a state of perpetual kittenhood, not necessarily a bad thing. Purring is the most beautiful and calming sound in the world.
Brian Caines, Ottawa