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Sarah Thomson

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SARAH THOMSON’S JOURNAL — THE ART OF WRITING

The day is hot. I listen to the water lapping against the dock and watch a spider work in the corner of the boathouse window. She drips down, hanging by a thread. A slight breeze lands her perfectly against the window frame. The distance seems so great compared to her tiny body, but she scurries up an invisible cord and begins again. She doesn’t seem to notice the heat.

The wind is starting to pick up and small puffy clouds drift high above. What is it about the sky that makes me feel so small — like that tiny spider, but lacking her certainty of purpose, the drive that pushes her to repeat the same tasks over and over again.

I just finished reading Latitudes of Melt, a beautiful novel by Joan Clark about Newfoundland. Once again, I’m in awe of the author’s ability to weave description and intimate thought together, bringing life to the words on the page. I can almost feel the coolness coming off the icebergs she describes. The novel left me thinking about every relationship in my life and how important each one is.

I wanted to stay in the Canadian North and decided to read Elizabeth Hay’s Giller- winning novel, Late Nights on Air. It was a little like drinking a glass of Kool-Aid after a fine wine. I kept tripping over words and phrases that a good editor should have fixed. I can tell that Hay is an excellent writer. She knows how to catch a moment in time, but the flow seems choppy — as if rushed. The story drags a bit until a contrived attempt to entice the reader by referring to something “mysterious” in the future comes in about midway through.

The book was obviously rushed. My guess is that the editor was more anxious to get a good seat at the award banquet than produce a serious literary achievement. Most editors know when an author needs to do more work; they also know what it takes to produce a truly great, lasting book (which is often more time consuming, with less immediate payoff than one that will simply appeal to a mass audience).

I’ve had writers ready to kill me, only to turn around and thank me later for forcing them to re-write their copy. Writing gets treated by some in the book industry as a simple commodity, especially those that have been in the industry too long and have lost their passion for the art. Writing is an art, and the role of art is to enlighten. Writing must have a sense of purity; it needs to be free from the pull of politics, status, and the bottom line. Writing takes time. I’ll finish this tomorrow.

It’s another day at the cottage. I sit on our small beach and watch my two boys dig in the sand. The water laps gently against the shore until a speedboat goes past; its waves reach us with a flurry of activity until the gentle rhythm of the lake returns once more. I dream about life here 100 years ago. There wouldn’t have been as many cottages on Lake Rosseau then. It would have taken much longer to get places. I wonder whether time would have felt slower?

My dream is interrupted by a yellow speedboat that has come into our small bay and is circling, making huge waves in order to bounce the tube it is pulling. They don’t seem to notice or care that their waves are crashing against our dock, disturbing the peacefulness. In the city I would just tune them out, but here at the cottage I want to listen, to hear the sounds of the otters playing, the cicadas buzzing, and the wind as it whispers overhead in the pines.

I watch my husband dive into the lake. The water reflects the sky and trees around him. I love to watch him swim; he looks strong and powerful in the water as the sun glistens on his back. A crow calls and the lake becomes quiet once more.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

SARAH THOMSON’S JOURNAL — ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

The Women’s News feature on our website today focused on the lawsuit against news correspondent Nancy Grace and CNN. The suit claims Grace pushed the mother of a missing toddler to suicide through aggressive questioning. Grace grilled the mother, accusing her of hiding something because she did not take a lie detector test and had vague answers regarding her whereabouts on the day her son went missing. The mother fatally shot herself just before the network was to air the interview.

What bothers me most in this case is that Nancy Grace casts a shadow on the profession of journalism. As a reporter, she should have gone into the interview free from bias, in this way allowing the story to emerge, giving dignity to the mother who lost her child, and perhaps uncovering the truth of what happened. But, grilling the mother — like a criminal prosecutor — with the threat of exposure through national television, is cruel and turns the interview into a stoning. It may be her employers who encouraged her to take this stand, but each and every reporter has a duty and responsibility to her profession. I may be called old fashioned, but I tend to believe that all professions, even reporting for CNN, have a responsibility to humanity. A reporter must never put a story before the welfare of another human being, and that is why it is usually safer for all involved to enter into an interview without bias.

This morning I was contemplating life while power spraying the deck at the cottage. With all the rain we’ve had this year, the algae has grown quickly, covering every surface with a thin green film that gets extremely slippery when wet. Power spraying has a zen-like quality to it — but­­ my mind often wanders. I was thinking about dancing with our kids on the dock last night under the full moon. We watched our shadows jump and twirl. I wonder if believing in God makes it easier to live with the fact that these precious moments will one day come to an end. If I did believe in some grand design to the universe, would I stop living each moment to the fullest? I don’t want to make the trade, not yet anyway.

My husband and his sister make daily exercise look like a walk in the park. This week at the cottage I am determined to swim around the island. Today I swam a quarter of the way. Tomorrow I’ll swim half way and then the next day I’ll try the whole journey … unless the weather, or something else important — like the chocolate bars in the pantry — gets in the way. My tall, lean, gorgeous sister-in-law swims around the island every day; it takes her 20 minutes. Sometimes she swims it twice. I have to face the fact that I will never be as tall as she.

My nearly 4-year-old son starts school in a few days. I worry that someone will come into the playground and steal him away. Or he’ll run out on the road and get hit by a car. I worry that he will grow up and leave, that these precious moments we have with him will end. I worry that life will happen to him. I know it is silly. I want him to live a full life, but I know I will be the one with tears in my eyes as I give him over to his teacher on his first day of school.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

SEASON OF EXTREMES

The warm afternoon sun casts long shadows across the dock. A crow calls in the forest and a lone speedboat makes its way across the channel in the distance. It is September and most of the cottagers have gone home. This is my favourite time of year at the lake. The days are still hot, yet the nights need a warm fire.

I suppose it is the changes I like to watch. This morning the thick fog seemed to press down on the lake, flattening it; not even a ripple marked the surface. The sun came up bringing a faint breeze. Slowly, over the morning, the mist rolled out, caught briefly by the islands and trees along the coast until it vanished completely with the noon sun.

I read somewhere that if we don’t go through the difficult things life brings then it is harder to appreciate or recognize the good that life throws our way. For me, September is a month of extremes. On a warm, sunny September morning nine years ago, my father died. A year later, on September 11, many more people lost someone they loved. The trees above me are beginning to lose their leaves; they float slowly to the ground — mother nature’s tears.

Today on the Women’s News section of our website, I read about the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA,www.rawa.org). They are speaking out about the hundreds of young women raped in their country every year. Powerful and corrupt officials turn a blind eye to the atrocities.

With the deteriorating security in large parts of the country, things worsen for the weak and unvalued. A society that treats its women so unjustly is one without honour. Yet the men walk around mistaking religious orthodoxy for integrity. How does the world teach integrity to children who have been raped and pillaged? It is hard to turn away. Should we?

I am just in the middle of reading a copy of Money Magnet: How to Attract Investors to Your Business, a book written by one of our columnists, Jacoline Loewen. It’s printed by John Wiley and Sons, and so far I’m finding it very inspiring. Jacoline has a way of putting perspective on the challenge of financing businesses. She points out how many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not learning about what financing is available to them. She has me thinking of the various ways we will be growing Women’s Post — both the magazine and the website — and how important it is to have investors who will actively help us grow into a bigger company. Jacoline has a clean, honest voice; she tells it like it is. I know Money Magnet will inspire entrepreneurs to create stronger, more productive companies. Jacoline is driven by the impulse to inspire entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, and she’s done just that with Money Magnet.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

MY ELUSIVE FRIEND

I have an old friend who visits at the most unexpected times. The first time we met was on a warm spring night when I was eight years old. I had gone to bed, but my room was still warm from the setting sun. I opened my window and the cool night air crept into the room. Wisps of cloud high in the sky were turning from pink to grey. Dusk cast an almost magical light over the lawn below. Slowly one and then another spring peeper began to sing, their voices carrying up from the marsh behind the house. Within minutes thousands of them were calling, the air filled with their music — like a symphony. Suddenly, for a brief moment, everything seemed to align. I was pulled beyond understanding and I wasn’t alone.

And then the moment was gone. The frogs still sang, the night sky still hung on to the day, but once again I stood alone, my nose touching the screen. I searched for something. I know not what.

Then, almost two years later, on a cold January night, my friend arrived without a sound. I had spent the day building an ice rink with my brother. The forecast was calling for a deep freeze overnight. Our parents woke us just after midnight and we bundled up, tied on our skates and were under a star-filled sky within minutes. The ice rink was as smooth as glass. I glided over the ice and looked up at the stars, and suddenly my friend was there with me. Everything aligned — the dog barking far away in the distance, my sister encouraging my brother forward, the stillness of the night around me. I understood it all for an instant — held in the arms of an angel. And then it was gone.

Over my teen years I fell out of touch with this elusive friend. I’d almost forgotten her completely until one warm summer night on campus after a night school class. It was a great class. We had debated the views of various philosophers and my head was filled with ideas. I could see a few stars in the sky. The campus was quiet, a light breeze stirred the leaves in the oak trees around me and once again my friend was there. For an instant I wasn’t alone. I was more than myself, everything aligned like the pillars at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican and then it was gone and once again I was alone, my friend gone as quickly as she’d come, the breeze still rustling the leaves above me.

We spent last weekend at a friend’s cottage up near Algonquin Park. The long conversations, interspersed with quiet moments of thought while looking out over a pristine lake, were peaceful. Sharing ideas, agreeing, or disagreeing, while knowing that there is a mutual respect and a willingness to understand, is one of the most rewarding aspects of friendship.

At one point, three of us climbed a hill to a lookout point over the lake and sat in the warm sun, the smell of long grass, earth, and pines filling the air. A hawk wheeled high above in the sky, its cry echoing over the valley below… cre-eee-ar, cre-eee-ar. Suddenly, once again, my old friend had joined us. For a moment I felt more than myself, I was part of the earth and sky; part of the beauty around me and in them. My friend left as quickly as she’d arrived. We sat, looking out over the land, talking about life, kids, and the challenges ahead.

Later on the porch, the sun setting in the west, someone said…”Won’t it be great growing old together and seeing how our kids turn out.” Yes, I think I do hope we grow old with them, to live, laugh, learn, and keep striving to understand the world around us. That is what real friendship is all about.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca

MY WORLD, MY RESPONSIBILITY

The morning sun isn’t yet up but I can already feel the heat of the day coming toward me. The heat is like the sound of a distant army marching steadily closer, coming to burn all the moisture out of the day. Mist in the bay on the far shore hides in the shadows; it will be the first to go. It is hard to avoid thoughts of global warming on these hot August days.

I’ve just finished reading The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock – only a year late. I haven’t read anything by Lovelock since my years at university, but what strikes me is how true his earlier predictions seem to ring. I remember studying his idea of Gaia which, very basically, connects all living things in their regulatory effect on the Earth’s environment, contributing to the balance that allows life to exist.

Back then I thought Lovelock was simply incorporating the views of other, older cultures and putting his own spin on them. I took his Gaia theory and incorporated it into my own philosophy. I have always held onto ideas that have a sense of harmony and balance to them. The idea of every living thing contributing to the overall ability of life to exist on Earth makes sense. Everything contributes, all for one and one for all.

Although I took up his Gaia philosophy, I didn’t take it to heart. I suppose I didn’t truly realize the extent of the damage I was causing to the earth. I went on driving my gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting car and, for at least five years, rationalized that I was contributing to the environment by recycling and using my blue box regularly. I watched as each year the weather became more and more extreme. I listened as record-breaking heat waves hit Europe and greater numbers of major hurricanes pounded our shores. Reports of flood, drought, and famine flash over my computer screen every single day. Lovelock’s predictions of impending climate change seem to be coming true.

The environmental movement is gaining strength, as it rallies public opinion behind the science. Will it gain enough strength to cause the real cultural change needed to reverse the damage already done? I still go to work in an air-conditioned car, spend my days in an air-conditioned building. But things are changing in my life. I try now more than ever to write about the environment. I know that my next vehicle purchase will be a hybrid. I feel guilty when I leave the lights on, or use the air conditioner in my home. I usually avoid turning on the lights in my office. I tell myself that the little things count. I hope more than anything that they will.

Lovelock writes of how farming has changed over the years in order to feed the ever-growing population and of how we are stripping the earth of her bounty in order to feed ourselves. Mankind is now farming at least half of the available land on the globe, leaving very little natural world to renew the resources we deplete.

The Revenge of Gaia has a section on power generation. I’ve always been strongly anti-nuclear, but I should specify it as anti-fission. Lovelock points out the shortcomings of a lot of green power and his preference for nuclear fusion – the nuclear combustion of hydrogen. He writes about the Tokomak reactor at the Culham Science Centre in the United Kingdom and the prospects for fusion energy, which are fascinating: “Nuclear waste of a fusion reactor is the harmless non-radioactive gas helium, and there are no long-term radioactive wastes.”
He worries that although nuclear fusion energy is within reach, it might take 20 years before it takes hold because of the timelines necessary to build the fusion reactors.

Lovelock concludes that nuclear power must be supported because of how little time he believes Earth has before we go past the point of no return. He says it is a point where the globe will become too hot to support life and vast portions of it will turn to desert.
I wonder if we truly are that close to drastically screwing up the world. I don’t have enough knowledge to know. I have learned that the planet is incredibly resilient, but then mankind is incredibly destructive.

But what makes me a true supporter of the environmentalists isn’t their predictions, or the extremes of Mother Nature, it is that this whole push is forcing us to take the technology we possess and make it better.

For the last 20 years the vast majority of technology has been focused on gadgetry, with very few research and development dollars going into anything but toys. If the environmental movement can push research dollars towards real innovative breakthroughs that add to our knowledge rather than diffuse it, then I’m behind it all the way.

The thing I can’t understand is what the harm is in supporting the environmentalist movement. Why are some people so against it? If there is even a small chance that we could refocus the massive amount of time and energy spent on designing gadgetry, to instead come up with a solution for clean power generation, then paint me green and give me a tree to hug.

The sun is slowly lighting up the sky. Its light touches the tips of the tall green pines, making them look as if they are on fire. I must push away these thoughts of doom and destruction. Another hot day is coming… maybe it will rain.

Sarah Thomson can be reached atpublisher@womenspost.ca.

PEACE REQUIRES CIVILITY

The theme of this issue is war and peace – two opposite positions that play into every human relationship.

I’ve never lived in a war zone, or experienced war. I know how lucky that is. So I’ll focus on what I do know – peace. I know peace takes work. It takes compromise, acceptance, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness.

I watch my two-and-a-half-year-old son push down his younger brother for no apparent reason. He does it because he can, and because he doesn’t know any better. My role as his mother is to keep reinforcing what it is to be civil; to teach my son that harming another person is not acceptable. I know the day will come when he’ll understand… but it may not be until his younger brother is big enough to push back.

Civilization: A word that holds so much meaning, but counts for so little without the foundations of civility that hold it up. Civility requires that every person place society above their own personal gain. It requires compromise with others, acceptance of the laws, unwritten and written, that allow the society to flourish; at times, it also requires forgiveness – the ability to rise above spite, jealousy, and fear. Civility is taught from parent to child, but I think it is also strengthened by time, knowledge, and understanding. I think too that civility can be weakened over time by pride, wealth, and self-righteousness. I sometimes think that this civilization may, like Rome, collapse from within, destroyed by its own wealth, greed, and lack of morality. War engulfed Rome, but I wonder if they brought it upon themselves.

And now, today, our peacekeepers fight in a foreign land, trying to bring order to tribal culture, hoping for peace. I read somewhere that peace comes from within. Is this true?

The wind blew all night and most of the day, shaking the boathouse relentlessly. It makes me feel restless. The dog barking on the next island at 4 a.m. didn’t help. Our neighbours have a black lab and they completely ignore the fact that everyone else on the lake has to listen to its endless barking whenever they let it out in the early hours of the morning.

This afternoon, the same dog swam over to our beach. Wet and aggressive, it bounded about causing my two boys to scream with fear. I looked for a stick to beat it away from them should it come too close. A large rock was our only defense, but the dog backed away from my anger. For a brief moment I was going to smash its head with that rock. A primal urge deep inside me to protect my boys almost cost that poor dog its life. The dog’s owners passed by in a rowboat a few hours later and waved. I waved back, trying to be civilized, all the while thinking “there goes a bunch of selfish people who don’t care about their neighbours. I must not yell, or get angry. I must be civilized, controlled, and refrain from saying anything rude. I must show them what civility is.” I controlled my desire to war, and peace (enforced by civility) ruled the day.

I’ve picked up a dozen books today, but can’t quite focus. The boats zooming past on the lake add to this anxiousness. I decide to look for a peaceful spot. The path up to the old cottage is quiet and the tall trees protect it from the wind. I sit down and listen. I can smell the sun heating up the pine needles on the forest floor. I can hear the wind whispering in the pines and finally a sense of peace settles over me.

Whoever said that peace comes from within obviously hadn’t lived through days of endless wind and tormenting noise. I think it more likely that peace, like everything else, comes from the fine balance of internal and external forces. No matter how at peace I am with my life, no matter how calm my soul, mother nature will always affect me – reminding me that I am vitally connected to her.

FUNNY HOW TIME SLIPS AWAY – CONRAD BLACK’S BATTLE

The afternoon sun is hot on the boathouse roof. I lie down for a nap with my son and can almost feel the heat penetrating the shingles. There is little wind and a haze over the lake muffles the sounds – all but for the lazy call of a Phoebe.

I love these hot summer days when time seems to drip, slowly, in rhythm to the waves lapping at the dock.

I have asked our columnists to write about time – the most valuable thing we have. I wonder how each writer will tackle it? I suggested they might write about what they would do if they only had a day to live.

My day would be spent selfishly with my family – making love with my husband and playing with my children. I’d want their last memories of me to be warm and loving.

But when I think of time I think of how quickly it passes, and how much there is to do. I want to contribute to society – but how will I make the world a better place? There are powerful people who can change the course of history and I hope this newspaper can influence them to do the right things. But that’s a lot to hope for.

Conrad Black, once one of the most powerful men in Canada, is now facing a battle with time. I’m not part of the bandwagon of media people kicking him while he’s down. He’s had a history of creative business schemes that made auditors, bankers, and investors spin in confusion. And those who chose to invest in his companies had to know his history, but chose to back him despite it, because he had a reputation of making money. They took a chance, some lost, but a lot of people gained. That’s part of investing in a company with such a larger-than-life leader. He was able to create a second national daily newspaper in Canada, he took risks, and he led with a flare that very few business leaders dare to possess anymore.

I am sad that he was found guilty of fraud. Sad because he was once a hero to a lot of Canadians – he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for demonstrating outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians – and sad because he is a man who is extremely bright. There is something unsettling about locking up a brilliant mind.

It takes wisdom to manage time well. I know that Black will do everything he can to avoid jail. But they’ll never be able to lock up his brain and with the technology available today, much of what he does now will still be possible. He may end up being the first man in history to start and run an international company from a jail cell.

A few weeks ago I worked on a crossword with some help from Lord Black. It was before the outcome of his trial was announced, while he was waiting for the verdict. He had one of the largest vocabularies I know of and sent me some of his best words. I filled in the rest and the crossword in the previous issue is the result. It is titled “Lord Black’s Revenge” and is still available on our website. The more I think on it, the more I wonder what his next move will be. He is not a man to go out quietly like some corporate middle manager. As long as he is breathing Conrad Black is a man to watch, and only time will tell what’s in store for him.

The waves knock the boats against the dock, their rhythm seems endless. The heat pressing down on the surface of the lake makes it seem like oil rocking back and forth. I watch my younger son sleep. His tiny hand opens and closes as he waves in a dream. I wonder who he waves to and imagine one of his grandfathers visiting him. Neither of them lived long enough to meet my sons. Their time ran out, but they both passed on the importance of making the most of each and every moment. They knew the true value of time.

IF I COULD WRITE MY FATHER…

I wrote a letter to my father when I was 15. It went something like this:

Dear Dad,

I’m traveling around Canada, meeting a lot of people and learning much more than I ever would in school.

You’re always telling me to write when I’m angry and I’m writing now, because I’m pissed off at you. The fight we had was the last straw and I just couldn’t take any more of you. Do you remember why you got mad at me? It was ridiculous! I was trying to type an essay for school and you came into the kitchen screaming that my “hammering on the keys” was unacceptable. When I screamed back, ripped up the essay and threw it at you, the look of shock that crossed your face was priceless.

It actually felt good to yell back at you; to defend myself and stand up to you for once. Part of me wishes I had stood up to you sooner. When I pointed out how awful you are to Peter – your own son – how you haven’t let a day go by without telling him how stupid he is, you looked truly surprised. I can’t believe that you were actually wondering why he’s such a fucked-up teenager!

After saying that I realized that for once you were listening to me. I left because I saw the acknowledgment on your face and the hurt in your eyes…

I didn’t know how to end that letter and never did end up sending it to my father.

I wrote it with a pen I’d stolen, along with $60 and a watch, from a nice chap who had invited me to his house party the previous night. I woke early that morning with a screaming hangover, but also with the relief one has when she realizes she is fully-clothed on the floor in a room full of snoring people. The man who owned the house was asleep in the bedroom, so I quietly sifted through his wallet, his dresser, and his bathroom, putting anything I could pawn into my pockets.

I went to a coffee shop and wrote that letter, but I didn’t know how to explain that I too was hurting; that my confidence was almost gone and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t justify my actions by telling myself that the world owed me something, because deep inside I knew that I owed the world. I couldn’t write about how the more I stole and cheated the more worthless I felt.

But life is full of change. Today as I look at my husband and son playing on the floor of our cottage, I wish so much that my father could have met them. The letter I’d write him would be so different from that one I wrote so many years ago. It would go something like this:

Dear Dad,

I want to thank you for being such a great father.

Thank you for the friendship that we were able to have. Thank you for that first time you picked up the phone and called me. I know that mom set you up to it, but I also know it was hard for you. I remember hanging up and crying because I was 22 years old and it was the first time you had ever called me. Dad, it meant a lot to me.

There are so many things that you taught me over the years. You taught me how to hold a hammer, how to use a skill saw, and a drill. You showed me that I could build things with my bare hands, and that I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. You encouraged me to write, to read, and to think. At times, when I’m struggling with some sort of challenge, I can hear your voice in my head saying, “Sarah, think. The answer is obvious.”

Dad, you taught me that I’m not always right. That looking for answers is always better than thinking I have them all.

I still remember the days and nights we spent in your hospital room. One day we spoke about life, and I was trying to picture you holding me as I child. I couldn’t remember what it felt like and realized that we had never hugged. When I got up to go home, I bent over and wrapped my arms around you. I thought you’d be stiff and awkward, but you held me tightly – we both knew that we didn’t have much time left.

If I could change anything in my past I would change my teenage years because I gave up the time I could have had with you. It’s the time, the conversations, and the way you had of making me believe I could do anything that I miss most.

You knew the importance of words; you knew their power and how to use them like knives, or like tools to build with. You weren’t perfect, but you tried to make up for your mistakes.

I learned so many things from you. Do you remember how we used to play chess? You taught me to play when I was only about eight years old, and you always won – right up until the very last game we played together, a couple of weeks before you died. I remember the moment that we both realized I had won. My eyes filled with tears. You knew I was worried sick about you, but you smiled and said, “Sarah it’s okay. You are going to be okay.”

Dad, I miss you so much…

THE PROPAGANDA AROUND NUCLEAR POWER

I received a letter commenting on a column I wrote a few weeks ago on the dangers and risks of nuclear power. The letter came from an employee at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) via their public affairs department. It made me realize the OPG is a bit sensitive to what their employees tell the public. And I wondered if they had censored the letter because it came across like company propaganda — spewing the words “safe and clean” like frisbees in a dog park.

The issue is that if an accident like the Chernobyl explosion were to occur at the Pickering power station, most, if not all, of the population of Toronto would die from radiation exposure and Toronto would be uninhabitable.

But the process of nuclear power generation does not create greenhouse gases and so the nuclear power supporters have jumped on this tidbit and sold it as the entire truth without acknowledging that the process of nuclear power generation includes the toxic waste it produces. To discount the waste when summing up nuclear power as “clean” is to create a false impression to the general public. The nuclear power generation process, from start to finish, is so toxic that it is lethal. To call it clean is to lie to the public.

Despite propaganda, the truth does eventually rise to the surface, and the truth is that the process of nuclear power generation creates the most damaging and toxic waste products of all of our energy sources to date. The other claim that the OPG and the Nuclear Power Association want the public to swallow is that nuclear power generation is safe. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to realize that creating toxic waste and storing it 50 kilometers from the largest city in Canada is NOT safe!

So why do they try so hard to put a positive spin on nuclear power? Nuclear is a huge industry that requires huge resources and, not surprisingly, it pays a lot of people very well — from the bankers financing it to the construction companies cashing in on it. I don’t think the people promoting nuclear today are tyrants or evil at heart, but I can’t think of even one true leader who stands out among them… they are a group of people thinking like middle managers — fighting for their livelihood and their belief that the vitality of Ontario’s economy is worth the risk of a catastrophe.

That there isn’t simply one person who is responsible for a possible disaster is what made nuclear power generation possible. The nuclear supporters know full well the outcome of a disaster; they know that the more complex a system is, the higher the likelihood of risk. But it is far easier for an impassioned group to risk everything than it is for one person to take responsibility for such a decision. That’s what the Nazi propaganda machine depended on — people hiding within a group, distorting the truth to serve their own purpose. Sure, one man started it but the group made it happen — and today the scary thing is that same group mentality is what the nuclear industry operates on.

Nuclear has proven that you don’t actually have to operate as a profitable business so long as you provide the energy the public demands. If renewable energy were to get the government backing it needs, it too wouldn’t have to be profitable. But I have an inkling that it would be, simply because the philosophy behind renewable energy is a good one.

I had another reader state that “nuclear will be the future.” Canada may have a lot of uranium now, but research estimates that our supplies will last 30 to 60 years, depending on use. This means that by the time all the upgrades and new nuclear installations are completed, there will not actually be any uranium to run them. So to say that nuclear will be the way of the future misses the fact that there isn’t a future for nuclear.

Today almost 51% of the power used in Ontario comes from nuclear power generation. Without it the OPG wouldn’t have a hope in hell of filling the public demand and black-outs across the province would occur. And the government responsible for stopping them would lose public support immediately. So the impetus to change isn’t going to come from the government.

Change has to start here, in the public realm; it starts with me writing about the truth; it starts with others debating the issues. Change starts with the banker who decides to support the solar company looking for capital. Change starts with each and every one of us learning the truth and placing value on it. What are you, on a personal level, going to do?

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LIFE IS LIFE

With Mother’s Day just around the corner the focus of this issue is on choice. I’ve asked columnists to offer their thoughts regarding the right of a mother to choose to abort her pregnancy. It is a controversial topic to be sure, and one that will likely never be settled.

I have trouble with both sides of the abortion debate because I don’t believe anyone can truly know where life begins. Both sides try to
explain what is impossible to know with certainty, and both define it absolutely. There is only one thing I know with absolute certainty
and that is that change will occur. I know without a doubt that this moment, as I type, will never occur again because change, no matter
how infinitesimal, will happen. Sometimes I think that this is what life is all about – a series of changes that we humans try to understand, define and control. But change is what happens in your life, or to your life. It is a process, not a definition. With motherhood I thought I might gain a bit of understanding, at the very least of when life begins, but after two children I’m less certain than ever. When I think of my pregnancies I can’t place exactly when I felt like the tiny thing growing inside me actually became a life – in my mind. It wasn’t when I saw the image of the tiny pea-sized embryo on my ultra-sound – something about it didn’t seem real. Perhaps, it was when I felt that first kick.

I wonder if the hormones coursing through my veins during those first few months of my pregnancies stopped me from connecting
to the baby inside me. I remember feeling that I had to find a name for it in order to make it feel more alive to me. But maybe, it is a protection mechanism Mother Nature planted in me. I’m well aware that the chance of miscarriage is extremely high in the first few months and my brain may have been stopping me from connecting.

The thing about being a mother is that at some point during your pregnancy you become crucially aware that you are not alone. It is the point when the alien form inside finally connects with your mind and becomes a tiny person that will one day be walking, talking and breathing. That point of awareness may be enhanced by the belly touches and encouraging words of friends and family, or it may come from the hormones raging through you; but whichever it is there is definitely a point, months prior to the birth of your child, when one knows without a doubt that you are merely the custodian of an independent life inside your body. It is at that point, that moment of recognition that a mother can never go back. I don’t believe science or religion can define when that point is. I think it rests in the individual, but I believe that if a mother decides to abort her pregnancy after she has experienced that moment of recognition, she also bankrupts her morality, because that is the point for her at which abortion becomes murder.

I don’t find much value in the “life” theories the old boys in Rome came up with, or for that matter a lot of the theories surrounding evolution. But I’m not a theologian or a scientist. What I do know is that words can be twisted and that people are forever using them to serve one purpose or another. When anti-abortionists judge and scorn people they ignore one of the most basic ethical principles – in religion and civil society – that of compassion. But then when pro-abortionists insist that abortion should be available to all, they ignore the fact that there is a point in a woman’s pregnancy when abortion becomes murder and at that point no mother is without guilt.

My two little ones are finally asleep. I wonder when they will begin to recognize the value of life. I suppose one day they’ll ask me how it all began, not just their life, but what came before them and before me and before everything. That is one question that I won’t be able to answer and one that I hope my kids will never be smug enough to think they know.