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Focus Readers, July 2016

Washington’s phoney sewage war with Victoria 

With regards to David Broadland’s excellent article in Focus’ May/June edition, I’d like to add three salient points. 

First, diffusion involves the movement of chemicals in solution from regions of high concentrations to low concentrations. Broadland shows a table comparing relative releases of chemicals of concern in Puget Sound compared to Victoria. The manifold higher quantities of all noxious chemicals in Puget Sound compared to Victoria’s outfalls means that their diffusion rates will move the chemicals towards Victoria from Puget Sound, and not vice-versa. 

By David Broadland, July 2016

Contamination of local politics by a false pretence and a toxic promise requires primary treatment at the ballot box.

Gregoire and CampbellEnvironment Minister Barry Penner ordered the CRD to shift to land-based sewage treatment in 2006. His claim that Victoria’s outfalls were contaminating the seabed has since been proven untrue.

As well, Washington State legislators have provided evidence that Penner’s action was prompted by an unpublicized agreement between then-Premier Gordon Campbell and then-Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Was the legislated right of Victoria electors to control their own financial resources stripped from them under false pretences?

By Leslie Campbell, July 2016

BC’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie makes the case for more government intervention on behalf of seniors.

Seniors Advocate Isobel MackenzieI MEET WITH BC SENIORS ADVOCATE Isobel Mackenzie weighed down by personal experience of aging parents and relations, and complaints about “the system” from friends and fed-up professionals in the health and homecare fields. Much of my baggage points to at least some systemic dysfunction and an apparent disconnect between what is claimed about the government’s respect for seniors and what’s happening on the ground.

By Judith Lavoie, July 2016

On the heels of the NEB’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal, a raft of research points in the other direction.

Katarzyna TokarskaTHERE IS A STRANGE IRONY to the timing of the National Energy Board’s recommendation that the controversial $6.8-billion Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion should get a green light from the federal cabinet.

Almost simultaneously with the May release of the NEB report, which concluded that, subject to 157 conditions, the Trans-Mountain pipeline would be in the national interest, a flurry of reports and scientific studies appeared documenting the risks of continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels. These were followed by a number of court challenges to the NEB recommendation.

By Roszan Holmen, July 2016

A First Nation’s claim to Vancouver Island’s rail corridor could spell the end of the E&N revival.

E&N DaylinerRUN A TRAIN, OR LOSE THE CORRIDOR. That’s the latest message from the Attorney General of Canada, in its response to a First Nation’s lawsuit. The Snaw-Naw-As is calling for a return of the land taken from its reserve more than 100 years ago for the purpose of extending the E&N rail line to Courtenay. In December, it filed a civil claim in the BC Supreme Court against the Island Corridor Foundation and the Attorney General.

This spring, the AG filed its response, sending a clear message to the ICF: the clock is ticking to fix the tracks and revive the railway.

By Briony Penn, July 2016

Business interests, scientists, environmental groups and First Nations call for new policy on the Island’s remaining old growth.

Andy Mackinnon measures a big firWHEN THE BC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) recently came out championing the protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island, it was hailed as a historic and tectonic shift by environmentalists. Yet it’s probably more accurately described in earthquake terms as “fault creep”—the “slow, more or less continuous movement occurring on faults due to ongoing tectonic deformation.” 

By Leslie Campbell, July 2016

Here’s to a summer of books, reason and love.

Bertrand RussellAS AN ANTIDOTE to the bombardment of modern life, I’ve turned to reading more books. Even when their message is unsettling, wallowing in a good book is somehow calming. And they certainly quench my thirst for deeper understanding more than the sound bites offered up by the news media. 

So I’ve been reading more books in general, and—returning to my roots—more philosophy books in particular. 

In so doing, I’ve been reminded that philosophers revere a good argument. As Socrates advocated, “follow the argument wherever it leads.” 

By Alan Cassels, July 2016

New studies provide further evidence that cholesterol-lowering statins and other new drugs may be a costly dead end.

Lipitor pillsTHREE NEW STUDIES in the past few months are like nails in the coffin of the Cholesterol Hypothesis, which has only seemed to become more questionable as our knowledge advances.

This hypothesis, simply put, posits that by measuring your blood cholesterol levels, and then altering those levels by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, people can avoid heart attacks, strokes and an early death.

By Amy Reiswig, July 2016

James Hoggan’s new book makes us look at our own communication practices, including our critical thinking, compassion and integrity.

James HogganWHEN I WAS YOUNG, trolls were merely fearsome fictions hidden beneath bridges. Today they lurk under virtually every online news story, find their way into Twitter feeds and Facebook conversations, heaving insulting and ignorant comments, even rape and death threats into people’s personal space. They are no longer hiding, and the narrative world they inhabit is not safely contained by the covers of a book but is the story of our own daily lives. 

By Gene Miller, July 2016

How is a city like an older guy’s memory?

Terror management in Detroit"PETE" SENDS YOU AN EMAIL titled “Be Smarter Forever.” Your indecisive forefinger wears an arc between “delete” and “open,” but anticipation is out-shouting your cautious angels and you’re seized by a reckless courage: “I’m immortal! I spit in Death’s eye! I’m gonna live for-ev-ah!”

“Open.” Oops! Another dream of imperishability bites the dust.

Mortal, according to Wikipedia, means “able to die, susceptible to death,” death-able, you might say—in any case, the natural prospect that makes “see-you-next-year” a real knee-slapper. 

By Maleea Acker, July 2016

Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteers help to save local frogs, salamanders and other amphibians.

John PotterONE NIGHT LAST SPRING, when John Potter and Joan Hendrick were out scanning a kilometre of dark, rainy road by their house in the Highlands, a woman stopped her car to ask if they were looking for something. “Yes,” replied Hendrick, “dead amphibians.” She laughs as she tells the story, but she can’t picture a rural road on a warm, wet night these days without thinking of the casualties likely happening around the region. “I didn’t understand,” she says, “until I started walking. You see them everywhere.”

By Aaren Madden, July 2016

Dana Irving’s background as a mural painter and her love of coastal forests have resulted in a grand, sweeping style.

Dana IrvingIN DANA IRVING'S OIL ON CANVAS PAINTING “Special”, the Salish Sea laps onto a rocky shore. Not far from the water’s edge, a stand of wind-blown trees rises from mossy rocks. In just about the centre of the image, an island large enough for one lone tree is surrounded by the waves. Clouds sweep overhead. Any number of coastlines in this region could claim such a scene, and anyone who has scrambled over similar rocks knows that these are places teeming with life: growth and decay, wind and weather, salt and sun and rock supporting an intricate ecosystem. 

By Mollie Kaye, July 2016

Six summer concerts offer a “less fearsome” way to start conversations about classical music.

Arthur Rowe"THE MUSIC OF FRIENDS" is how chamber music is sometimes described, due to its requirements of good-natured give-and-take during performance. Goethe described the string quartet as “four rational people conversing.” Cooperation and connection are a fundamental part of the genre, and there is less separation between audience and performers than there would be in a large concert hall. 

It seems fitting, then, that the Victoria Summer Music Festival (VSMF) affords both performers and listeners ample opportunities to engage in musical conversation.

By Monica Prendergast, July 2016

The past year’s theatrical highlights included ghosts, tears, music and silliness.

Rehearsal of The ValleyTHE SUMMER THEATRE MONTHS are a bit quieter around town in regard to theatre. The Belfry always has a summer show and this year it’s a remount of the ever-popular Mom’s the Word. There are the outdoor options of the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival or Theatre SKAM’s SKAMpede. And, of course, the end of August brings us the Fringe Festival’s grab-bag of theatrical delights. Yet compared to many other months of the year, things slow down and Victorians turn their attention to nature-based activities, getaways and holidays. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, July 2016

The brave new world of GMO salmon joins other absurdities like flooding the fertile Peace River Valley.

April Caverhill illustrationWHEN IT COMES TO RANKING species dumb enough to skunk their own food supply, I’d say we’re far enough in front of the pack to be placed in a class all our own. Perhaps it all started some 30 centuries ago with the invention of currency, which turned everything into a measurable commodity and made way for the storing of wealth. The traditional fruits of bartering—fresh figs, fish and falafel, for example—had not been well suited for hoarding, but coins and tokens certainly were, and over time that changed everything.

By Amy Reiswig, May 2016

Andrew Nikiforuk writes about one woman’s battle to protect her water from fracking and our lives from corporate lies.

Andrew NikiforukNO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE on this planet, society needs a few key things in order to work. Water is one. Trust is another. When both become corrupted—actually going up in flames—for industrial profit, one has to wonder where we’re headed, not just environmentally, but morally. 

Focus readers, May 2016

The billion-dollar sewage debacle

To date, nobody has died from Victoria’s existing sewage treatment system. It has caused no outbreaks of cholera, no mass extinctions of sea-life, not even a documented case of upset stomach. The good news (as has been frequently reported by a variety of scientists and public health officers) is that powerful offshore ocean currents provide Victoria with an environmentally and economically sustainable form of sewage treatment.

Inexplicably, the federal and provincial governments have decided to ignore this good news and decree a superfluous sewage plant be built. Rather than question the absurdity of this order, Victoria city council quietly complied, eagerly welcoming the chance to flush a billion dollars down the drain.

By David Broadland, May 2016

Puget Sound is a mess of sewage and toxic chemical discharges. Should Victoria taxpayers have to pay for Seattle’s sins?

Washington Representative Jeff MorrisWASHINGTON STATE'S OPPORTUNISTIC WAR OF WORDS against Victoria’s science-endorsed form of sewage treatment reopened on a new front in February. With the cost of placating Washington’s claims of environmental damage to international waters now hovering near $1 billion, Victoria could have lobbed some scientific evidence across the border. As usual, however, Victoria taxpayers were deserted by their own elected representatives, who backed down without uttering a contrary word.

By Leslie Campbell, May 2016

BC’s defamation laws are downgrading our democracy.

Shawnigan Lake protestTHIS EDITION BRINGS YOU an update on the Shawnigan Lake situation by Judith Lavoie. When we learned of threats of legal action against citizens and media outlets for alleged defamation from the company operating the controversial mine and reclamation site in the area, we decided to investigate. There’s little doubt people have been surprised and upset by the letters from South Island Resource Management’s lawyer. Besides the fears and outrage expressed by those willing to be interviewed by Lavoie, one fellow asked “What about free speech?”