Fuel. Climate. Risks
Re The Rising Risks Of Oil By Railway (editorial, July 9): You opine that “pipelines are clearly safer” than rail and call for swift approval of Keystone and proposals to use a TransCanada Corp. natural-gas pipeline route to also move oil to Eastern Canada.
Rather than offering a false dichotomy of the lesser of two evils, pipeline versus rail, both of which condemn us to climate chaos and toxic dangers, you should highlight the clear and urgent need to transition away from oil, coal and gas and ramp up investment in renewable energy.
Connect the dots between fossil fuels and severe weather events, such as the recent Alberta floods, Quebec wildfires and Monday’s flash floods in Toronto, where the rainfall shattered all one-day records. This is what climate change looks like in Canada.
Wind and solar don’t spill toxins and explode. Instead of rearranging the chairs on the Titanic, let’s find the lifeboats and head for the safety of the shore.
Liz Bernstein, Ottawa
The horrifying disaster at Lac-Mégantic, as well as the petroleum-filled train cars hanging over Calgary’s Bow River, are only the most recent examples of derailments and questionable judgment. The fact that the transportation of oil has grown by an astounding 28,000 per cent over five years proves the obvious: In the absence of a pipeline, much of it will travel by train, frequently through highly populated, ecologically fragile areas.
Regulation and government approval can require that pipelines be constructed and maintained to the most exacting standards. Most importantly, responsibility for safe transportation can be vested in a relatively few companies that can demonstrate they have the competence to manage a pipeline system.
By contrast, the rail system has become highly fragmented as the two main carriers have spun off unprofitable lines to small independents that may lack the skill, infrastructure and resources to operate safely.
The many groups opposing pipeline development, here and south of the border, need to spend a moment considering the alternative.
Robert Cook, Bedford, N.S.
… and railways
Re Tragedy At Lac-Mégantic (July 9): Everyone who has voted for a political party that promised to reduce red tape and regulation on companies (despite their big and getting bigger profits) and everyone who has cussed out unions because they want a decent wage for workers (despite concessions given, often futilely, over the years) bears some responsibility for the Lac-Mégantic disaster.
How can we accept that a train carrying dangerous cargo would, for even one second, be unattended? How can we accept that a train carrying dangerous cargo would not have a backup engineer on board? How did we come to accept that corporate profits are really more important than our lives?
How many more Lac-Mégantics will it take before “regulation” and “government oversight” are not seen as four-letter words?
David Crowe, Calgary
I worked on the “extra gang” for Canadian National in the summer of 1967, in Capreol, Burwash, Foleyet and Hornepayne. We bunked in 19th-century wooden boxcars that were parked on sidings and secured for the night with short lengths of two-by-four jammed under the wheels on the downgrade side. I am having difficulty understanding why a train parked for the night in Nantes, Que., could have been allowed to roll free, secured only by air brakes that failed, when chocks could have prevented a disaster.
Tim Inkster, Erin, Ont.
What has not been explained is how a train was left on a siding with open rail points in front of it, allowing it to rejoin the main track and roll downhill unmanned. Why were the points not closed against it? How many trains in Canada are left unattended on sidings on hills with open points ahead?
Basil Pogue, Regina
Women and politics
Re Why Don’t Women Care? (July 9): If more women were more engaged in politics, Stephen Harper would not be so correct in his cynical judgment that most of the population does not know what prorogue means, or how many times his government has been in contempt of Parliament.
Bruce Parsons, Portugal Cove, Nfld.
Margaret Wente’s comments do not leave me feeling marginalized, but belittled.
Claire Coutts, Medicine Hat
Alcohol ails us
The World Health Organization has declared alcohol the third-leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Contrary to your editorial, access to liquor should be harder, not easier (Indeed Convenient – July 8).
Buyers should pay an extra tax to subsidize liquor’s burden to health care and social programs, but how do we monetize domestic violence, liver disease, mental illness, career suicide, addiction and social alienation?
If this were a pill, it would be banned or labelled as dangerous.
Judy Tyson, Oakville, Ont.
Re One-Two Punch Overloads Infrastructure (July 9): In 1954, 81 people in the Toronto area died as a result of flooding from Hurricane Hazel. In the next year, the Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority was formed to oversee storm water management in the watersheds of the Humber, Rouge and Don rivers.
For 60 years, the authority has carried out this mandate as the watersheds became home to 2.5 million more people. Monday’s storm was more intense than Hurricane Hazel and poured more water into the watershed. The water was retained, detained, diverted and managed by tens of thousands of storm-water management works approved by the authority over six decades.
This enormous, complex system was overloaded by the rain but there was no loss of life and relatively modest property damage, given the size of the city and the storm.
We owe a debt of gratitude for the foresight that brought about these authorities, and to their staff.
Bob Lehman, FCIP, Barrie, Ont.
While massive rainstorms and subsequent flooding are regular events, our concrete and asphalt urban environment exacerbates their effects. For far too long, cities have been built in a way that ignores or is in direct opposition to the realities of natural systems.
These recent events highlight two facts: 1) our infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle the consequences of urbanization in a changing climate, and 2) cities need to be designed and retrofitted so they work more like natural systems, rather than against them. The sustainability of our built environment depends on it.
Mark Bessoudo, Toronto
I’m very surprised Toronto didn’t call in the Navy.
Rick Bennett, Ottawa