Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees
No, it is not just for the stuff I write but for the information provided to me from readers just like you. I'm going to talk about something that a reader sent to me shortly. The consequences for science are mind-boggling and may throw into disarray everything that we have been led to believe is true.
If you will remember, quite some time ago, I raised the question of bovine flatulence, cow farts if you will, as a concern with respect to air pollution. The more that we read about bad air in Windsor, the more that we see that it comes from outside of the City. Many people believe that the bad air comes from the United States but I suggested to you that the Governments needed to have a major environmental study undertaken by DRIC with respect to cows and bulls.
I'm not aware however whether such a study has been undertaken. My suspicion is that the Governments are afraid of losing the rural vote when a federal election is so close and we have just finished a provincial election. Accordingly they were afraid to undertake such a study for fear of what the results might be.
Well some shocking news has just come out of Toronto. It could have a dramatic influence on the debate over what kind of road Windsor will have. Wouldn't it be ironic if an unprotected below-grade road would be the best solution for Windsor since diesel engine technology and new diesel fuel specifications mean that within the decade there should be very little contamination from trucks.
How could that be you say? How could an expressway be better than Central Park? Frolicking amongst the trees that eat up pollution supposedly (except for the six months when the trees don't have any leaves) seems to be such a "green" idea. Come on, we can't be a world-class destination with another expressway built here. How can we compare with Toronto near the airport where there are about 20 lanes of traffic. Now that's a world-class destination for tourists worldwide!
Unfortunately, the news out of Toronto may be all bad:
- TREES CAN KILL!!!
Sam may have made a gross error. In all good faith, he may dooming us and the six generations that will follow. I am surprised that Sam ignored the event depicted in the photo above that took place in Central Park in 1996!
Here is a story from the Toronto Star just published days ago that you will read here, on this Blogsite, and not in the pages of the Windsor Star or of any other media outlet in the region. In fact, as you can tell from the story, the results are so shocking and so disturbing that the report is to be rewritten. In fact one may wonder if it will ever see the light of day:
- Do trees spew 'contaminants'?
City report that says vegetation emits huge amount of `compounds' into air sent back for a rewrite
Oct 11, 2007
John Spears, Toronto Star Staff Reporter
A city report that says trees and vegetation spew more than a half-million tonnes of contaminants into Toronto's air each year has been bounced back to staff for a rewrite.
Councillors on the city's parks and environment committee asked staff to clarify and, if necessary, correct information in the report on air and water emissions in Toronto.
The report took a blast from Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, who said the report contained errors and was written in such an impenetrable way that even "self -avowed policy wonks were scratching our heads."
"I felt like I was reading a different language," agreed Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale).
One eye-opening passage on air emissions focused on six air contaminants singled out by Environment Canada.
They include carbon monoxide; compounds that cause acid rain; fine dust that causes respiratory ailments; and "volatile organic compounds" or VOCs.
VOCs include a wide range of substances – some man-made chemicals such as benzene, and some natural substances.
The smell of cut grass, for example, comes from VOCs.
Air emissions of the six contaminants total just over a million tonnes in Toronto, the report says, and more than half of that total is made up of "VOCs that come from trees."
Christopher Morgan of the Toronto Environment Office, who helped write the report, said the intent was not to ring alarm bells about trees.
"I'm not trying to knock down trees, for heaven's sake," he said in an interview. "I'm trying to say: Put more trees in."
VOCs can curb the harmful effects of some other contaminants, he said:
"The contaminants in the air aren't necessarily bad things."
Hartmann said the section on trees spewing contaminants – even if technically correct – shows where more focus and better use of language is needed.
"The way the report reads, it's very easy for someone to conclude that a lot of the smog-emitting pollutants out there come from trees and vegetation," he said. "I suspect that's not what the authors wanted to convey."
The point of the report is to focus on man-made chemicals, he said, not those that are part of the natural environment.
Because of the difficulties in interpreting the report, councillors asked staff to produce a non-technical summary that's understandable for the general public.
The report must come back to the committee in November for another review before it is sent to council for final approval.
You have been warned!