Cakewalk – Things on this planet worth fighting for

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column of thoughts and observations from the Interior.

Cakewalk, as a word

Cakewalk was a word coined from a game played by youngsters and adults alike. The game features a table surrounded by chairs, and on the table is a three layer cake. Music is played, and the participants march to the music. When the music stops, there is a scramble to sit down in a chair. It’s a fun game which I played many years ago while in Clinton.

Writing about our community and its people is a bit like scrambling for one of those chairs when the music stops. It’s a challenge. To come up with themes that others, besides yourself, might be interested in. The tune played in this case, is the deadline for publication in The Journal.  Sometimes, I find that events and my thoughts about them don’t coincide with publication. Like in the game of Cakewalk, no one loses. Writing this column is just plain pleasure for the writer. I am gratified quite often by remarks made while I’m shopping at Safety Mart, or stopped on the street by persons who enjoy the column.

Pipelines and incinerators

Enbridge is boosting up the advertising for that pipeline from Alberta that would go through two mountain ranges, farmland and valleys in B.C. to be pumped onto freighters at the coast, and shipped thousands of miles across the Pacific to China. The claims and warnings being made by the paid proponents of the pipeline through B.C. reminds me of those I read about made by the owners of the coal and tin mines in England during the industrial revolution. That, if they took the women and children out of the mines, the nation would go into the disaster mode economically.

The threat to the environment of British Columbia and the coastal waters is formidable. The oil industry of Alberta is formidable too. The tar sands are yielding unlimited wealth, as was expected, the cost of which is probably inestimable at this point. Our Prime Minister is an Albertan. His job is to see that every obstacle is removed to the marketing of oil and bitumen to China. That “little” spill of 800 litres near Merritt, is a drop in the bucket compared with what is envisioned as a pipeline to B.C. Not even a drop. As the propaganda of the industry and the forces of commerce accelerate, the hope of the industry is, that the public, including the First Nations people, and environmentalists will, somehow, climb on board, or be silenced into acceptance of this proposal.

Yes, the building of the pipeline and everything else being considered as a component to take Alberta oil to China will bring jobs for probably a couple of years or longer. And after that, what? The oil industry in Alberta will benefit gigantically. Unless, of course, the Chinese economy takes a down turn.  And the experts tell us that can happen. Will happen, eventually. We live in a dangerous, complicated world. The need for “another way”, not only in the business of selling and transporting oil and bitumen over long distances has never been more cogent. What seems the least expensive route is not always the least expensive, as it so often, turns out.

Garbage, again, and incinerators

To people who have lived in areas where the incineration of garbage is a harsh fact of life, no one will dispute that their environment is dramatically affected. I have relatives who lived in Chicago, and when the incinerator was proposed for this area some years back, one of them wrote and urged me to oppose the plan. Many of us did. And the plan was shelved. The environmental factors that weigh in are a large proponent of the kind of opposition we have been seeing. Thousands in the Lower Mainland came out to oppose the GVRD plan to incinerate their garbage in a prime agricultural and residential area. So, now the GVRD are looking to the Interior. They are seeking interest from Regional Districts.

Nobody needs a reminder that this area, dry belt as it is, is also prime farmland and ranch country. I know that proponents insist that technology has improved in the process of incineration. Be that as it may. Or may not be. But isn’t it time for GVRD’s engineers to seek something other than “Out of sight, out of mind”, and to see the transportation of garbage as an anachronism in this day and age? The costs of transporting garbage to incineration sites alone must be formidable.

Livestock and produce farms must maintain pristine environments. No one wants to buy cattle or cauliflower from an environment with garbage incinerators, toxic or otherwise. And it seems to me, how things accelerate when once they are accepted by the powers that be. The landfill in Cache Creek we were told, for example, would close in 20 years. Yet, that promise, if it was a promise, seems as ephemeral as the odors that permeate come summer winds, in that area. And expansion has been increased to include many more hectares for a much longer period.

When a toxic waste incinerator was proposed for this area back in the 1980’s, I can recall about 400 persons in this village coming out and standing on Railway Street to oppose the plan which the Provincial government seemed all too eager to endorse. I can recall civil disobedience being taught to groups. Maybe other long time residents will remember that tension filled time. Some in the community were all for it, and some families were split down the middle about the issue. It was not the best of times for our villages.

“Sharp shooter” cancer cure?

It has been used to cure tumors in mice and it does it with speed and intensity that doesn’t effect healthy blood cells. Dr. Tak Mak of Toronto recently announced the new drug. He emphasized that it has yet to be proven that it can destroy cancers in humans. Hardly a family anywhere has not been effected by cancer disease in one form another. Let’s hope these Canadian medical researchers have come up with some hope for us all.

To quote Dr. Mak, “We began to look for specific therapies designed to fix what is broken, instead of throwing a bomb hoping to kill more bad than good cells”. I like Dr. Mak’s analogy, “throwing a bomb.”

With the current therapies, if they don’t kill you, they may cure you. At least for a while. My father, brother and sister died too soon of cancer. I suffered renal cancer myself and opted for surgery, rather than chemo. That was six years ago. Someone suggested my cancer was “benign”. I can assure you, as Dr. Stewart assured me, it was anything but.

Nelson Mandela

Only one of several of the most outstanding figures of our age, Nelson Mandela, as I write, is in hospital in South Africa, and it is clear that the great man’s days are numbered. Family are gathering.  His people wait for the end. And when it comes, the grief and loss will be felt in a way which cannot be imagined. Mandela is an icon. A beacon of endurance and strength. Another great icon of the age was Ghandi. And yet another was Martin Luther King. Peace and Equality were the hallmarks of their lives. I can’t hear King’s famous “I have a dream” speech without being moved to the core.

Half of native kids live in poverty

A headline by Colin Perkel of Canadian Press, points out that the number is triple the national average.  The report of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives refers to the condition of Metis, Inuit, and non-status Indian children, as well as children of immigrants and (so-called) visible minorities.

“That half of status First Nation children live in poverty should shock all Canadians,” said Patricia Erb, head of Save the Children Canada. It isn’t just income that is referred to in the report, but the absence of resources in communities and infrastructure. The definition of poverty is an income of $38,000 a year for a family of four.

The elders of our society in Canada, many of them, if not most of them, also live with incomes that are considered at the poverty level, or below it. The elderly, the children, especially those in the categories mentioned above, must deal with increasing costs of just about everything.

Many of us manage. And manage quite well, all things considered. But the inequities in our Canadian society have become more and more delineated with every generation. The rich for those very few, are getting richer. And the poor, which is most of us, are getting poorer.

Let’s face it. We have a long way to go.

The things that matter

It isn’t just the weather that has made this column deal with what may be termed, the deeper issues. It’s been raining for 48 hours non-stop. I read a lot and keep informed by listening. I enjoy Peter Mansbridge’s panels on political matters, Rex Murphy’s O so decidedly opinionated rants, and Rick Mercer’s rants as well. I enjoy documentaries that show us how other people live the world over. And I listen to the news both Canadian, and British. The BBC Canada news comes on at 5:30 pm on KCTS, and I often hear news that our newspapers and tv doesn’t report on. I guess that makes me a news junkie.

We live in our little village on the Thompson River, enjoying such a peaceful, healthy environment. Our social lives are enhanced by community volunteers who work in every sphere. It is so easy to forget “the world”.

A few people tell me, “I don’t listen to the news or read about it because it is so depressing.” Well, I can’t deny that much of it is depressing. But a lot of it isn’t.  It is uplifting.  We are put on this world to learn. I came to that conclusion many years ago. We learn to suffer. We learn to feel joy. We learn to learn.

Cheers!  For another month!

Esther Darlington MacDonald