It appears in the news all the time. Experts constantly offer reassurance that the risks are “mininal”. And those who say there are no risks, or who are not saying anything, are lying.
Are we willing to accept a minimal risk when the cost is human life or the destruction of our planet?
As humans, we can’t know the future. We can’t predict with perfect accuracy what impact our actions will have.
But we can make an educated guess based on past experience and what we know.
To be fair, much of what we do during our daily lives carries risk: driving our cars, crossing the street, sitting at our desks. We generally don’t spend much time thinking about that. And then there are things that carry higher risks, that are sanctioned by our government, such as the transportation of dangerous goods through our communities by rail and highway; pipelines and oil tankers carrying fuel overland and by sea.
What does minimal risk mean? It means that we can expect the worst possible scenario to happen once, maybe twice. Hopefully no more than that, but perhaps. And if we’re lucky, we won’t be the ones standing around at close range when disaster strikes.
We accept these, because right now the alternative is uncomfortable to many of us – a lack, or reduction, of the goods and services that these risky ventures provide us with. And when we say “It’s worth the risk,” we’re betting that we won’t be the ones being directly involved in the disaster.
That’s hardly fair to those who are.
In order to eliminate the risk, we need to come up either with foolproof transportation systems – which, given the variables of weather, wildlife, other vehicles on the road, etc. – is impossible; or we need to do without and/or come up with local alternatives to high risk cargo.
“Pie in the sky,” you’re muttering by now. But, you know, if no one says anything, it won’t happen. Change doesn’t come easily. Quite often it requires a lot of angry yelling, uncomfortable action and catchy sign-waving before things get better. And that is worth the risk.
Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal