Spring 2013
Letters to the Editor

Readers contemplate climate change, the issue of hunger, and even theatre


Healthy Minds
In the early 1950s, engineering and business students were lucky to have a psychology class taught by Prof. Bill Line. His lectures were so entertaining that you had to arrive early to get a seat. But he had a very serious message: He felt that without a revolution in attitude, poor mental health would pose a great danger to civil society. He rightly predicted the increase we are now seeing in multiple murders and gun violence.

He spoke about the importance during a person’s formative years of feeling safe and secure, and of the societal need to devote more resources to mental-health education. With respect to the authors of “Apocalypse How?” (Winter 2013), poor mental health is still the most important potential human-made catastrophe of the 21st century.

James Maunder
BASc 1953, Gravenhurst, Ontario


 

Green Living
On the subject of human-induced climate change (“Apocalypse How?”), it is important to note that North Americans and Europeans presently enjoy a high standard of living and consume a large fraction of the world’s resources. We will have to be sympathetic to the expectations of people in developing countries for raising their own standard of living. This presents a difficulty because we will be hard pressed to make substantive lifestyle changes to accommodate these desires, and because developing countries will account for most future population growth. Unfortunately, green technology – although much advanced in recent years – will not be able to generate enough clean energy to replace greenhouse-gas emitting sources.

Jon Van Loon
PhD 1964, Markham, Ontario


 

No Food Shortage
In the section of “Apocalypse How?” on world hunger, Prof. Harriet Friedmann implies that there is a shortage of food in the world. But present food-supply problems arise mostly from corrupt governments and their irresponsible policies. If she thinks industrial farming uses too many resources, she should explain how small farms can produce enough food – especially without chemicals.

Fred Langford
BA 1953 Victoria, Sidney, B.C.

Professor Friedmann responds:
While there is not a shortage of “food” in the world, there is a growing number of hungry people, and a new problem of malnourished people who have enough calories but lack essential nutrients from a balanced diet. The causes are far more complex than implied by Mr. Langford. One could start with the fact that more than half of the world’s production of grains and oilseeds are fed to animals or used to fuel cars. These same “food crops” are drastically reduced in genetic diversity, and displace mixed cropping systems that renew soils and waters. Of course, it is not a question of extremes – ever more chemical inputs or none; it is rather a question of moving in sustainable directions as quickly and as intentionally as possible.

 

Climate Change
I found “Apocalypse How?” an interesting read. However, I take issue with the idea that human-induced climate warming is causing the oceans to rise.

Is our climate changing? Almost certainly. Are humans the cause? Highly unlikely. Scientists have found a great deal of evidence that Earth’s northern latitudes were once much warmer: a “mummified” forest on Ellesmere Island, the remains of magnolia and fig trees in northern Greenland, and corals, which only grow in tropical waters, on the polar fringes of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Great changes in the Earth’s climate took place in the distant past without our influence, so why should we conclude that we are the cause of such changes now?

Let’s not permit our governments to be coerced by ill-informed climate change alarmists into adding carbon taxes to our already onerous tax burden. Let’s keep our planet clean but let’s not cripple our economy because of an imaginary crisis.

Ken Stouffer
BA 1978 UTSC, Alliston, Ontario


 

A Propensity for Violence
Speaking of apocalypses, one of the best apocalypse-threat movies I know is The Day the Earth Stood Still. The alien Klaatu arrives with a giant robot, Gort, which destroys weapons on sight. Should mankind plan to colonize other planets and export its propensity for violence to them, it will be in for a shock: “This Earth will be reduced to a burntout cinder,” says Klaatu. And we won’t have to wait for a bloated sun billions of years hence to do the same thing.

The film ends with Klaatu and Gort flying off, having left that sobering message ringing in the ears of humanity. I suspect that the National Rifle Association would not have a link to this movie on its web page.

Geoff Rytell
BEd 1975 OISE, Toronto


 

Theatrical Genius
Thank you for the article about the brilliant Jeremy Hutton (“Enter Stage Left,” Winter 2013). As an actor who has worked with Hutton in numerous productions, I have a word for young actors: if you ever have a chance to work with him, grab it! He’s extremely demanding, endlessly patient and wonderfully articulate; if you are an uncertain young actor, you could not possibly have a better director or teacher. And a word to U of T’s governors: the geniuses aren’t all in the science labs. This one’s in the theatre. Imagine that!

Thomas Gough
BA 1983 Woodsworth, Oshawa , Ontario


 

A Play Worth Seeing
Regarding “Nightmare in Nanking,” by Diana Tso (Winter 2013), I had the great pleasure of seeing a production of Red Snow about a year ago. I came away with a deeper sense of the tragedy of war, how it shapes our futures and how we must heal in order to move forward. There was a standing ovation when the play ended. I would highly recommend that every college and university in Canada give readings of Red Snow.

 

Immortalized on a Stamp
The Toronto Argonauts’ commemorative stamp shows a picture of the famous Mud Bowl at Varsity Stadium in 1950 (“Ephemera,” Winter 2013). Your readers may be interested to know that a former University of Toronto football player, my father, is also on that stamp. Alexander E. “Ted” Toogood (BPHE 1948) played for the Blues from 1945 to 1948 and then for the Toronto Argonaut Club from 1950 to 1955. He is the man carrying the ball, about to be tackled.

Shirley Toogood
BPHE 1982, Toronto


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Scott Anderson on April 9th, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

Ken Stouffer notes that radical world-wide climate shifts occurred long before humans and the Industrial Revolution came along. Why then, he wonders, do we point the finger of blame at us?

But even if we assume that he is right, and that recent global warming is simply another in a series of natural, cyclical events, that hardly justifies our pumping millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air, cutting down any tree we can lay our hands on or reducing, on a daily basis, the shrinking habitats of our fellow species – all in the name of the economy. Besides, as someone wrote, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.

In a puzzling comment, Mr. Stouffer writes: “Let’s keep our planet clean but let’s not cripple our economy because of an imaginary crisis.” If this crisis is imaginary, how do we account for the fact that the world’s glaciers are rapidly melting and that rising sea levels already threaten many island nations?

Geoff Rytell
BEd 1975 OISE
Toronto

# 2
Posted by Scott Anderson on April 9th, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

Further to Ken Stouffer’s letter, 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 down a drain, a change in perception can’t happen soon enough.

Gerald Crawford
BASc 1956
Mississauga, Ontario

# 3
Posted by Bernie Scala BSc1988,%20BEd1989,%20MA2001 on April 12th, 2013 @ 10:50 am

Re: Ken Stouffer’s letter:

While there is no question that climate has changed often and quite dramatically in the past, those changes have occurred over relatively long periods of time. That the unprecedented rapid changes we are witnessing are anthropogenic is as near a statistical certainty as such matters can be, and if he were to pay as close attention, without prejudice, to the overwhelming evidence at hand as he has to the magnolia and fig trees of northern Greenland he would, I think, come to the same conclusion as nearly the entire global scientific community.

As for his concluding remark, there is far greater potential for growth in green technologies than in the world’s current carbon-based economies, including Canada’s.

I, for one, think that a small carbon tax is a reasonable price to pay to help ensure that future generations, and indeed the entire biosphere as we know it, would have a more propitious future than the one forecasted by nearly every computer model based on present trends.

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