Readers discuss climate change, traffic in Toronto and the history of Regent Park
I have never been prouder to be a University of Toronto alumna than after reading the Summer 2013 magazine. Congratulations on a superb issue. The truly amazing range of projects described in this issue is important for Canada and the worldwide knowledge community. You have got a reader – and a donor – for life.
Amy Soltys Paget
MLS 1978, Lafayette, Indiana
The article “Housing First” (Summer 2013) left me with some unanswered questions. Who were the community partners who did the face-to-face groundwork with the people who required counselling and housing assistance? Why is there no mention of the organizations involved with the At Home/Chez Soi study here in Toronto? This research is not possible without the hard work of faceless, poorly paid, mostly racialized frontline workers who deserve to at least be acknowledged with a reference to their community agency employers. U of T can and should do better.
MSc 1980, Toronto
Dr. Paula Goering, lead author of the At Home/Chez Soi study, responds:
It was an omission on my part not to make sure that credit was given to the community-service providers and to the participants and persons with lived experience who have made the study possible. In Toronto, the service agencies included Community Occupational Therapists Associated, Toronto North Support Services, Across Boundaries, Housing Connections and the City of Toronto. A Persons With Lived Experience Caucus also contributed a great deal to the project. In each site there were similar partners who are too numerous to be named. Proper acknowledgments should also include the Centre for Research in Inner City Health and the leadership team from the Mental Health Commission of Canada: Cameron Keller, Catharine Hume and Faye More.
The illustrations accompanying your poll, “What are your plans after graduation?” (Summer 2013), feature a pregnant woman and a woman carrying a tray of coffee cups to represent the percentage of new grads with plans to do, respectively, “other” and “volunteer/do an internship.” What were you thinking?
BSc 1975, BEd 1976, Toronto
I was interested to read about the intelligent traffic system being developed by Prof. Baher Abdulhai’s team at the University of Toronto (“Making Traffic Smarter,” Summer 2013), but I do not believe it will materially benefit Toronto or any other large city for a simple reason: every network with finite capacity has bottlenecks. There may be multiple bottlenecks, but an intelligent traffic system will simply move them. A simpler, greener and less expensive solution is to reduce the number of vehicles in Toronto.
Walla Walla, Washington
Prof. Abdulhai responds:
Traffic congestion occurs when demand exceeds capacity, anywhere, any time. Yes, there are multiple bottlenecks, and, yes, a comprehensive solution must manage both demand (by encouraging transit use, as well as travel at less congested times using less congested routes) and supply (by enhancing the efficiency of existing infrastructure such as intersections and freeway on-ramps). The new MARLIN adaptive traffic signal control is but one of the supply management solutions. And although one technology can never be a panacea, our research has clearly shown than we can quite significantly reduce delays at intersections.
Memories of Regent Park
It was wonderful to read about the changes occurring in “The New Regent Park” (Spring 2013). In 1952, I was a recent graduate of U of T’s School of Social Work and working at the Moss Park office of the Neighbourhood Workers Association. These were the days when many of the nearby houses had leaky pipes and bugs. Men sometimes deliberately broke store windows so they could be put in jail overnight, where they would get a good meal. There was no organized daycare, so mothers had to stay home unless a neighbour could help. The new residents’ programs should certainly improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood. Thank you for the informative article; I thoroughly enjoyed it.
BSc 1952, Williamsville, New York
A Carbon Tax is Necessary
I read Ken Stouffer’s letter to the editor about climate change (Spring 2013) with dismay. There is virtually universal agreement among scientists that human activities are affecting the global climate. Recent dramatic reductions in polar ice, the Greenland ice sheet and glaciers worldwide leave no doubt that change is occurring. All that remains to debate is the extent and speed at which future changes will occur.
I strongly recommend reading Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen, formerly the chief climate scientist at NASA. In his book, Hansen explores human-induced climate change in detail, and describes the American government’s attempts to muzzle him as he tried to make people aware of the coming catastrophe. For a quicker, lighter read, I recommend Climate Central’s Global Weirdness, which clearly sets out the facts about climate change and the range of possibilities that result from these facts.
Mr. Stouffer seems most concerned about a carbon tax because he doesn’t want to pay it. The carbon tax in British Columbia was offset by a reduction in the payroll tax. This leaves individuals with the opportunity to reduce their tax burden if they take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Until we put a price on damaging the environment, most of us won’t make the tough choices necessary to do the right thing for future generations.
BASc 1975, Toronto
Further to Ken Stouffer’s letter in the spring issue, a critical climate fact that I have yet to see in articles by climate alarmists – but which is even acknowledged by the International Panel on Climate Change – is that the total load of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 210 billion tonnes, of which a mere seven billion, or less than five per cent, is contributed by humans and other animals. And yet we’re accused of being responsible for the climate. The alarmists have brought a whole new meaning to the term “political science.” What has happened to scientific objectivity and truth?
While there may be at least anecdotal evidence of global warming, human contribution is marginal at most. Furthermore, even if we could affect climate we won’t, because we’re not going to give up electricity, gasoline and heating fuel, the vast majority of which is produced around the world with coal, oil and natural gas.
The scientifically uninformed public, journalists and politicians have been hoodwinked into wasting billions. As a taxpayer who hates to see my money go down a drain, a change in perception can’t happen soon enough.
BASc 1956, Mississauga, Ontario
Murderous at Heart
Regarding “Nightmare in Nanking” (Winter 2013), perhaps Diana Tso’s play could be shown in Tibet where Chinese soldiers have committed atrocities against the Tibetan people. I say this seriously, not facetiously, as her work might encourage empathy among the soldiers with their victims and lessen the violence.
The playwright herself is aware of the universal nature of her play when she cites its relevance to Turkey and the Armenian genocide.
Alas, in the course of our human history, there are few nations who have not suffered atrocities and even fewer who have not inflicted them. There is clearly something murderous at the heart of the human psyche with which we have yet to reconcile.
G. Valerie Whelan
BA 1976 Trinity, MA 1984, Toronto