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Pesticides are safe if used properly says scientist
By Jennifer Smith - Kelowna Capital News - Published: January 31, 2009

Anything can kill you, it’s the dose that counts, according to Keith Solomon, a toxicologist with the University of Guelph who spoke at the Environmental Plant Management Associations’ conference Friday about using pesticides.

On Thursday, during the conference, another speaker, a pesticide advocate, challenged the industry to sue those who disagree with using the products.

By Friday afternoon, the troops were rallying behind the cause with conference conveners encouraging industry professionals not to have a knee-jerk reaction to reports in media that speak out in favour of Kelowna’s cosmetic pesticide ban—particularly if they quote the UBCO English professor (or his wife) who are leading the rally against their cause.

For his part, Solomon encouraged his audience to use the products judiciously, as simply any other tool in its arsenal, and tried to provide some facts for the fight.

“It’s very difficult for the public, for politicians, to differentiate between the potential for harm and risk,” he said.

Pound enough sugar, salt or egg white into a body and eventually you will kill a person, he said. It’s the same principle with the chemicals.

Provided people follow the safety guidelines and use the products sparingly, they offer far more benefits than potential for harm, he said.

In Kenya, 70 per cent of the population is involved in food production, whereas only two per cent of North Americans are, said Solomon, noting that those who criticize these products tend to be the ones who benefited the most from their existence.

“In Africa, they’re trying to get more pesticides,” he said.

As someone who tests the products prior to them reaching the market he said it’s generally the user, not the product, that causes problems.

In North America, pesticides are directly responsible for only hundreds of poisonings versus thousands in the developing world where those spraying the products tend not to have the same protective gear and safety standards available to them.

As for Canadian pesticide bans, like the one instituted in Ontario, Solomon encouraged his audience to question the fine print, as it were, pointing to some obvious flaws in the logic.

In that case, some very toxic insecticides, like pyrethrins, are fully permitted if they are used for health or safety reasons—like killing a wasps’ nest.

Solomon suggested the testing is thorough and so-called cancer epidemics, linked to the products are unrealistic when one considers that the statistics, don’t reflect an increase in cancers in Canada at all—at least if age and the population increase are factored into the equation.

Pesticides offer a $3 to $4 return on the dollar investment for growers—not much if they are not used sparingly, he said.

“Sometimes you just need that exact socket wrench for that exact size nut and there’s no other tool in the tool box that will do,” he said.

jsmith [at]

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Sue anti-pesticide policitians: consultant
By Judie Steeves - Kelowna Capital News - Published: January 29, 2009

The pesticide application industry should sue municipalities, councillors and environmental activists who advocate for, and pass, bylaws restricting the use of pesticides—particularly when such actions are based on fraudulent information, says an Ontario pesticide proponent.

“Sue council members who say the products you use are detrimental to the environment or public health,” Jeffery Lowes told members of the Integrated and Environmental Plant Management Association meeting in Kelowna Thursday.

Kelowna council’s new pesticide regulation bylaw is now in effect, but it isn’t a full ban on the use of pesticides, only on the use of them for cosmetic purposes—except by trained applicators, noted John Vos, general manager for citizen’s services.

Lowes, a consulting investigator who is leading the fight against pesticide bans in Ontario, told delegates there isn’t anything concrete to support activists’ claims that pesticides cause harm to the environment or public health.

“2,4-D is probably the safest product you have access to,” he told the landscapers and pesticide applicators.

Most of the bylaws won’t stand up in court, he said. The turfgrass industry is planning to sue in Ontario, he added.

He also claimed there are no economic benefits to a ban on pesticide use, but Vos feels Kelowna’s bylaw likely would be of benefit to trained applicators, because it prevents the untrained from applying them.

He said he doesn’t think Kelowna’s bylaw is in jeopardy.

Kelowna Coun. Robert Hobson agreed, noting council has the power to regulate pesticides. The new bylaw was the result of interest from the public, and it will be enforced by complaints from the public.

The regional district had already made the decision not to use pesticides in its public parks, and council received letters from doctors and from Interior Health supporting the new restrictions.

Even the industry is trying to reduce the amount of pesticides that are applied, by using such alternatives as Integrated Pest Management or IPM principles, he noted.

As a farmer, he said pesticides are one of the most expensive costs of growing, so orchardists are not hesitant to use such alternatives as the Sterile Insect Release program to reduce their use.

He said he voted in favour of it because of a desire to have less pesticide use in the community, and also because of a “concern about the way people apply them,” he said.

jsteeves [at]

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Alberta’s tar sands are a real-life environmental horror show
Kelowna Capital News - Opinion - Published: December 13, 2008

If you want to be scared, you don’t need to watch a horror movie or read the latest Stephen King bestseller.

Real terror can be found by simply firing up Google Earth, the computer program that allows users to look at satellite pictures of any place on the planet. By mousing over and zooming in, you can see what Alberta’s tar sands look like from space.

It is not a pretty sight. In fact, it’s scary – and for good reason.

A recent book by celebrated journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (published by Greystone Books and the David Suzuki Foundation), explores what these grey spots on Google Earth mean to Canada’s environment and economy.

The scale of the Alberta tar sands project is unprecedented in Canadian history. Alberta’s “blue-eyed sheiks”, as the oil-industry elite are known, stand to make billions of dollars from carving up northern Alberta in order to meet U.S. demand for oil. But these dollars pale in comparison to the environmental value that is being squandered at the expense of petrodollars.

The main tar sands deposits are at three sites in Alberta: Peace River, Cold Lake, and Athabasca. The Athabasca region contains the largest deposit of crude bitumen in the world.

All of this bitumen, a complex mixture of molecules from prehistoric life, is a geological miracle with which Canada has been blessed. This bitumen could turn out to be a substance that will help our children and grandchildren in ways that we can’t even imagine today, much the same way our ancestors couldn’t have imagined us using silicon in our computer chips. But instead of safeguarding this resource, we are using it up. We are creating an environmental catastrophe that will take centuries to recover from, if at all.

The tar sands consist of a mixture of silica sand, minerals, clay, water, and most importantly, crude bitumen. The process of converting bitumen so that we can use it to power our cars, heat our homes, and transport our food is not easy.

It’s estimated that two tonnes of earth must be excavated to produce one barrel of thick tar-like bitumen. And it requires as much as three barrels of fresh water from the Athabasca River to make one barrel of bitumen. It also takes a huge amount of energy to extract the oil from the sands. Canada exports one million barrels of bitumen to the United States.

In the media, we hear that tar sands will provide oil companies with tremendous profits in the future, but there’s been very little discussion about what happens next. Even hardened energy experts agree that relying on oil-soaked sand to meet North America’s energy needs means that we’re nearing the end of the cheap-oil era.

We know that our lifestyles must change. We know that burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas creates smog that harms our health and creates global warming. We know that global warming poses an incredible threat to humanity. We also know that there are solutions, such as creating a future based on renewable sources, increasing conservation efforts, and rethinking society so that we protect our quality of life without destroying the planet in the process.

With all the money being made from the tar sands, very little of it seems to be reinvested in renewable energy that comes from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal sources. If anything, we could be investing this money in low-carbon projects so that we won’t have to pull every bit of bitumen from the ground.

When my children were younger, they’d often ask me about the bogeyman – a mythical evil spirit who’d lie in wait under their beds when the lights went out. But maybe the bogeyman isn’t some scary creature. Maybe the bogeyman is simply a man in a suit trying to satisfy his shareholders, make a profit, and cosy up to federal politicians so he can continue doing his work without having to answer to his environmental crimes.

Or maybe there’s something more frightening to consider. Perhaps the bogeyman is us – the public that places the short-term economic value of the tar sands above the priceless value of our environment and our health.

—with Faisal Moola

David Suzuki’is a scientist and broadcaster in Vancouver.

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Get on and do something about environment
Kelowna Capital News - April 06, 2008

To the editor:

I have read several letters to the editor, including G. Baudais’ telling other readers that climate change is still a disputed topic.

Leaving this aside I think it is time for us to move on and realize that climate change is not the issue, environmental change, however, is.

Our reliance on fossil fuels, overtaxing our water resources and our insatiable consumption of the landscape are the issue.

Arguing over whether or not the temperature on this planet is rising because of humans won’t matter at all when we have no clean air, water, or arable land on which to grow food.

Give our collective heads a shake and think of how close we actually are to the tipping point of disrupting the balance of this planet’s delicate ecology. I know this cannot be disputed.

Carl Paddock,

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Global pollution can be cleaned up
Kelowna Capital News - April 06, 2008

To the editor:

In response to Mr. Lovegrove’s letter (While the debate drags on… April 4 Capital News), while I appreciate him taking the time to view the video on Global Warming vs Global Governance, his unsubstantiated comment that it is nothing more than a product of “conspiracy theorists” is a common reaction to anything, or anyone, that goes against what is perceived as being the accepted truth. Is it not possible that what we are told as being the truth is, in fact, a conspiracy theory in itself? How do we really know what is true?

The best that we can possibly hope for is to look at all the facts and information on all sides of the issue before making up our minds. Then we can make an informed decision and put an effective plan in place that will solve the problem at hand.

Also, Mr. Lovegrove, like many others, seems to confuse global warming with global pollution. They are clearly two different issues. Of course, global pollution is predominantly man-made but, global warming has very little, or nothing to do with increased CO2 levels caused by man. (Science has shown that human beings are responsible for less than three per cent of the increase in current CO2 levels, which have been proven to be at much higher levels historically, long before the industrial revolution made its entrance not that so long ago.)

As for global pollution, I am all for the human race “cleaning up its act.” We overconsume, we waste, we pollute our air, our water, and our soil with toxic chemicals, we cut down forests, we create millions of tons of garbage every year.

Again, we must not confuse the two issues otherwise, we aren’t likely to come up with any effective solutions at all.

Grant Baudais,

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Google has facts on global warming
Kelowna Capital News - March 30, 2008

To the editor:

In response to Mr. Parks letter to the editor on global warming (Climate Change is a Blatant Fact We’re Overdue to do Something About, March 28 Capital News), I suggest he view the following documentary entitled Global Warming or Global Goverance:

Some of the facts:

• CO2 does not cause an increase in temperature. It is temperature increase which causes an increase in CO2.

• Temperature increase is caused by increased solar/cosmic activity on the sun.

• Humans are responsible for less than three per cent of all CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

• The increase in temperature causes the oceans to release the majority of CO2 into the atmosphere.

• The same global warming phenonema is also happening on other planets therefore, it is not global, it is universal, and obviously not man-made.

• There is no majority consensus among scientists supporting man-made global warming. It is far from conclusive.

G. Baudais,

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Climate change is a blatant fact we’re overdue to do something about
Kelowna Capital News Letters - March 28, 2008

To the editor:

Modern scientific statements generally have dozens, even hundreds, of peer reviewed authors. For example, seldom is a scientific paper released from, say, the international CERN particle accelerator without citing hundreds of physicist-authors. Dissenting views are cited, analyzed and addressed in scientific papers; the reasons for discounting dissenting scientific views are plainly presented.

Similarly, the work of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contains the views of believers and skeptics. Thousands of views were considered and referenced. The scientific observations were that a planet relatively high in CO2 creates a warming climate. Humanity is pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at historic rates. The planet is warming and sea levels are rising from melting glaciers. Humanity is destroying both oceanic and land vegetation which normally captures CO2 and frees oxygen for animals to breath.

The conclusion was that humanity is destroying the planet’s ability to balance atmospheric CO2 and oxygen; concurrently through the burning of fossil fuels, we are adding CO2 into the atmosphere at historic rates.

The result is a detectable rise in both the planet’s temperature and sea levels.

In the political press, the views of dissenters are often reported with charts and analysis that are stated without supporting scientific peer review—attempting to reduce scientific investigation into conclusions based on who shouts the loudest by blasting the political press with manufactured arguments.

In contrast, the Climate Change Panel’s observations were not a matter of a vote that led to the majority saying whatever they want. Neither were the observations those of a few tyrannical bullies. Simply stated: Dissenting views were cited, analyzed, peer reviewed and found wanting.

The panel’s report on climate is not a political statement; it is a scientific one—even though its conclusion has social consequences. The planet is actively warming and humans are principle actors in this event.

Eugene Parks,

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