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Re Can Canada Reinvent The Plastic Economy? (May 4): Margaret Atwood and Calvin Sandborn are right. Plastic is everywhere. I have even found it in the soil of potted plants from the local nurseries. And I also find small bits of Styrofoam masquerading as vermiculite (a mineral growing-medium).
What do I do with that contaminated soil when the plant dies? I would never mix it into my garden. How can we reduce our use of plastic, when it invades modern life in such insidious ways?
Neal Reid, Oakville, Ont.
Your excellent article about plastic has a reference to a historical quote about cellophane, a plastic developed about a hundred years ago. Unlike its modern-day replacement, polyethylene film, cellophane is a biodegradable material and thus environmentally benign. It is manufactured from wood or cotton cellulose.
Inspired by cellophane, Canadian researchers are focused on producing compostable plant-based substitutes for current petroleum-derived packaging materials. Those of us working in this area are very hopeful that these new materials will help reinvent “the plastic economy.”
Robert Pelton, professor of chemical engineering, McMaster University; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
I can’t get through a day without water in a plastic bottle. I need my Tims takeout cup and that neat little plastic cap so I don’t spill my coffee. And no way am I giving up those plastic shopping bags! What would I put my garbage in? This week, I restocked my cleaning products – dish soap, bleach, polish. What would I do without that stuff in its handy plastic containers? Am I ready to give up that amazing clingfilm? No way. My leftovers would be ruined.
Maybe I should think again …
Michael Scott, Toronto
Just so wrong
Re Hassan Diab Is Another Canadian Let Down By Our Government (May 3): Hassan Diab was not just let down – his rights were shockingly violated.
The Justice Department asked France to send fingerprints of the suspect in the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. The prints didn’t match Prof. Diab’s, but this wasn’t disclosed to the court. Unbelievably, under Canada’s extradition law the prosecution has no obligation to present evidence that points to innocence. Never mind that basic human decency calls for that.
To think that our government wouldn’t present evidence of a citizen’s innocence when charged by a foreign government is beyond belief. The judge, who was unaware of this evidence, was nonetheless very skeptical of the merits of France’s case and said so strongly. Despite this, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson, who had the final decision, complied with France’s extradition request.
After Mr. Diab spent three years in prison in France, a French judge found insufficient evidence to send him to trial. The law must be changed and Mr. Diab must be fully compensated, now!
Geoff Holland, Barrie, Ont.
All about ourselves
Re How Our Collective Narcissism Explains Everything From Trump And Brexit To China’s Rising Dominance (May 3): Marketing expert Russell Belk says Chinese leaders have rallied a “collective narcissistic fever” by bolstering the belief that the country deserves all of its current successes after suffering for years at the hands of other nations.
Prof. Belk’s views obfuscate the role that Western – not “other”– nations have played in China since the 19th century. China had no interest in Western goods, but the West desired China’s goods. Britain rectified this trade imbalance by establishing an aggressive illegal drug trade in China.
The outcome of China’s resistance? Two military decimations of China (Opium Wars), and treaties allowing Britain, France, Russia, America, Germany and Japan (as Western ally) to force China to trade.
Prof. Belk should be more discerning when he creates carte blanche similarities between the narcissism of right-wing imperialistic xenophobia fuelling Trumpmania and Brexit, and the very different “narcissism” behind China’s “outsized national pride.”
Richard Douglass-Chin, Windsor, Ont.
Rx for MD placements
Re New MDs Must Lose Their Sense Of Entitlement (May 1): It is simplistic to suggest that the answer to the problem of trying to balance the needs of society versus the individual wishes of medical school graduates is for more medical graduates to go into family practice residency.
The two spots left in Ontario were both in medical microbiology in Ottawa, not in family medicine in rural areas. Even if there had been spots in family medicine in rural locations, there is no guarantee those grads would stay and service those areas once they finished their program. Their spouses/partners might need to find employment in these communities as well.
On average, medical school graduates have completed eight to 10 years of postsecondary education, prior to starting any residency. They have taken on tremendous debt and cannot work as a doctor if they don’t match a residency position.
Over the next 10 years, a significant number of physicians will be retiring from practice. As a society, we will require an influx of new physician graduates, especially since our aging population will be putting more demands on our health system, both inside and outside hospital settings.
John Freedman, MD, Thornhill, Ont.
Getting into a residency program doesn’t guarantee its completion, let alone passing certification exams or getting a staff job at a downtown Toronto hospital.
To suggest that the catastrophic match result this year – 113 graduates left with nothing – reflects students putting “personal desires” ahead of “societal needs” is high-handed and ill-informed. Every remaining family medicine spot this year was in francophone Quebec – hardly a tractable solution for many medical graduates with (at best) remote high-school French skills.
Not everyone wants to be a specialist and not everyone wants to practise in a big city. Most “unmatched” students would gladly accept a family medicine spot just about anywhere. But it’s hard enough to learn medicine on the job, let alone doing it in another language.
Joshua Gould, FRCPC (Internal Medicine), St John’s
Scots aren’t infallible
Re One Of Life’s Moments (letters, May 3): I have often pondered why I’ve harboured a life-long fear of losing my wallet. I reasoned resolutely that I had little to worry about, as I am of Scottish descent. I now take comfort in knowing that even the Scots aren’t infallible – and Canada is a caring place.
Cheers to David Watson. A true Scot, he spoke to me.
James Stuart, Windsor, Ont.
David Watson’s rare ignominy of being a Scotsman and losing his wallet is doubled when it’s revealed that he actually had some money in it …
Christopher Causton, Victoria