Archive for ‘Environment and Economics’

February 13, 2012

‘Saving’ trees, Ministry of Health style

When is ‘saving a tree’ not ‘saving a tree’? Or rather, how the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care thinks we’re stupid….

I work in the medical field. When I want a lab test done on a patient, I have to give them a lab requisition on paper which they take to the lab. Although my office is completely paperless and we are entirely computerized, we are forced to give patients little pieces of paper to get tests because our health care system, despite spending millions, is not equipped to handle computerized requisitions. These paper requisitions are supplied to physicians’ offices by the Ministry.

So how surprised was I to receive a quaint little note from the Ministry of Health a couple of weeks ago? As of April 1, 2012 they will no longer be supplying physicians with lab requisitions. As of that date medical offices will have to log on   to the Ministry’s website and download and print all requisitions in their office.

I can see why the Ministry would like to download this. It will save them printing costs. What I want is for them to send out a notice saying that ‘as part of cost cutting measures the Ministry will not longer supply the required forms’.

But, nope, that’s not what the Ministry did. They sent out a note say that in an attempt to comply with the green measures of the Government of Ontario they are cutting down on their paper printing.

Now I am guessing that the government printers, producing thousands of copies of these requisitions, are likely more efficient per page (environmentally) than me doing one-offs in my office on my printer. But the Ministry is going to sell this downloading as an environmental issue in which they are cutting down on their printing output and, therefore, making Ontario a better place for all.

I guess I can see why so many people vote for the Harpers and the Fords of this world. When the government communicates with people as if they are children how can we expect people to make educated decisions? These people really think we are all idiots, don’t they?

In the guise of green policy, the Ministry is downloading a printing job to community based practices (a printing job made necessary because of lack of electronic co-ordination by the Ministry) where it is likely to be even less efficient.

Wait for the headlines: “Ministry reduces Printing in massive green policy enhancement”.

 

By the way, this post is not about the downloading, it’s about the hypocrisy.

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April 14, 2011

Gardening as racism: Native species….

Gardeners are all into ‘native’ species, by which they mean plant species that originated in the local environment. They claim two major reasons. The first, which I feel is somewhat legitimate, is that species that evolved in this ecosystem may be better adapted to it and therefore more likely to thrive and survive. This is not always true but I will return to this question a bit later.

The main reason given is that there is some intrinsic value in restoring an ecosystem to its original contents. This argument I find absurd, regressive and unscientific. Think of human populations that have migrated across this planet. What of all the intermarriage? Has this not only led to a healthier breed of humanity but also a more interesting cultural expression of humanity? Would anyone suggest we isolate and maintain current genetic strains and populations of humans?

Why would we apply different standards to the rest of the biological world? The same gardeners cum ecologists, in complete contradiction to their rhetoric, act as if humanity is separate from nature and not part of it. That is not to excuse all actions of humans as natural because we evolved on planet Earth. Let me deal quickly with that canard. While I believe we are definitely a natural and normal part of the biosphere, I also feel our intelligence, and the resultant technology we have developed, as well as our ability to plan ahead do indeed makes us a special case even though we remain an integral part of the natural biosphere.

What I am saying here is that to limit new plantings in City parks, as many people demand, to native species, is really a kind of ecological racism. I find it theoretically repugnant. After all, gardening is all about imposing human control over nature anyway. There really is no better example of human domination (fascism, if you will) than gardening. So what is the big deal with adding a few different and interesting species to the list. Why the conservatism of the environmentalist groups?

As for the contention that native species are better adapted to the local environment, well… new research disputes that claim. It appears that ‘invasive’ species are often very well adapted and, further, that they add to the local ecosystem to help ensure survival of current inhabitants  (New Scientist, Issue 2727).

The ‘nativist’ attitude is unscientific, ignorant of historic fact and, certainly for those who call themselves gardeners, self deluding. And it isn’t healthy for our environment either.

March 27, 2011

We need nuclear power now more than ever

Photo credit: Stefan Kühn/Wikimedia Commons

By the Maven | All the news of the terrible tragedy in Japan has once again focussed the world’s attention on the safety of nuclear energy. Environmentalists are almost chortling over the difficulties the Japanese are having containing their damaged Fukushima reactor.

Well, I’ve gotta tell you guys, nuclear energy is still the least polluting of all signficant sources of power , and best shot at being the saviour of this planet for the short and medium term future.

So called alternative forms of energy–solar and wind– are too inefficient, too expensive and way too unreliable to form a major part of our energy production any time soon.

Except for hydro power (and even that calls on rivers to be dammed  and flood plains destroyed) nuclear power is the least environmentally disruptive generator of power,  in its entire life cycle from extracting uranium from the ground to using it to fuel turbine generation, of all significant power sources.

The two big issues with nuclear power are the cost of building plants and storage of the radioactive products. Most large government projects run way over budget. Nuclear power plants are no exception. We need to properly budget for and build the true cost of generation of nuclear produced energy into the system. That is doable. It only takes a bit of honesty from planners. The honesty part is difficult, but the results still make nuclear attractive.

The issue that has everyone upset is finding a place to store the radioactive waste for thousands of years. When put that way it is a very frightening scenario. And fear is, most of all, what the environmental fear-mongers trade in.

Aside from the fact that some promising new technologies are being researched that may help dramatically cut the length of time for radioactive material to degrade into safe residue, I have but one question that seems to be crucial: would we rather dump our waste in a shaft deep in the ground or spew it into the air in massive amounts to breathe into our lungs? Because the latter is exactly what we are doing right now with carbon-based energy. We have turned our atmosphere and our waters into huge garbage dumps.

I would rather have nuclear power.

What about nuclear accidents?  Well, did you know that no one was ever injured or even exposed to higher than safe radiation levels at Three Mile Island?  So, please let’s not hear any more about the Three Mile Island “disaster” as an example of nuclear power gone amok. Now Chernobyl, there was a disaster–albeit it under a totalitarian regime that ignored safety protocol and refused to respond to early warnings.

As for the tragedy in Japan: if that were a dam that was destroyed by the earthquake or something like, say, an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, would people react with the same horror? Nope, we don’t mind dumping untreated sewage into our waters, driving our cars with tailpipes pumping noxious substances into our air. But talk of clean and safe nuclear and out come all the neurotic middle-class comfortable citizens worried about nothing real at all.

March 20, 2011

Don’t act like a child and you won’t be treated like one

This may come as a surprise to some of you but I try to read the business section of my daily paper regularly. In my case it is Report on Business in the Globe?

Why? Because there is a lot of information there you just can’t find anywhere else. Businesses make decisions on some interesting facts and many of them should be more widely disseminated. Some business people are quite honest about politics–among themselves.
A story in today’s ROB (Jeff Gray’s ‘The question of ‘psychological harm’) struck me.
He describes a case where some patients at a hospital were informed they may have been exposed to Tuberculosis while attending treatment. They were requested to come in and be tested for Tb.
Notwithstanding the test only takes 48 to 72 hours to be interpreted, a group felt compelled to sue the hospital for ‘psychological harm’.
Now, mind you, they did not test positive. That is, none of the group apparently got sick. But their claim was that they suffered from depression and anxiety while awaiting the results.
This bothers me in two ways.
First, hospitals (as the health care system in general) struggle to provide services with the funding they receive. Hiring lawyers and waging court battles in not cheap. The legal departments at hospitals add to the cost of health care delivery.
I am sure the patients suing the hospital in this case would be the first to scream if there were any cutbacks in the health care they were delivered.
But what bothers me more is the lack of ability of some people to ‘suck it up’. I mean, for god’s sake, you can get hit by a car crossing a street. You mean it’s shocking that one could get a communicable disease when attending a hospital? What rock have these people been living under? Maybe, more to the point, can they return to wherever they came from.
No, the flagrant display of what can only be seen as either crass money grabbing or gross inadequacy the issue.

Now, don’t take this as an attack on the tort system in general.  Awards of damages can ultimately reduce accident costs by deterring those who might otherwise cut corners and risk significantly harming others.

Of the two, it is the latter that disturbs me more. Every conservative politician plays the card of wanting people to take ‘more responsibility’ for their own lives (ie: crash and burn social services because they are turning us all into zombies). They claim the citizenry has lost its ability to be self reliant.
Of course, in the safety of their own clubs they secretly admit that they don’t think the commoners can handle self governance.

But just when the political right is in the ascendance, along comes a group of idiots who prove them right.

If we as a citizenry are going to demand the right to determine the direction of our communities, we cannot behave as spoiled children.

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