Elmira activist Al Marshall is not wrong when he says governments and polluting businesses are capable of being wrong, lying and covering up inconvenient facts. When it comes to health and environmental concerns, there are plenty of examples to back his position.
That doesn’t mean, however, that such chicanery is at work in every instance.
In the matter of methane in Bolender Park, it’s clear Woolwich Township doesn’t have a full handle on the scale of the former municipal dump on the site. And there have been lapses in monitoring the area. But the overall picture is one of very little risk to the public.
Much of the current methane problem is largely contained to what is now 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers, though the issue predates by many years that new operation and even the former one, Paleshi Motors, as the Bolender landfill was in use between 1962 and 1970.
Even there, it isn’t clear if methane levels are troubling in the longer term, though the township is waiting on assessment from the provincial Ministry of the Environment.
A consultant’s report presented this week to township council, prompted by a list of questions and comments from Marshall, finds no evidence of any cause for concern, in line with past monitoring reports.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical, with questioning what officials put forward. A good rule of thumb with political and corporate interests is to challenge all positions – if they tell you the sky is blue, cast an eye skyward to make sure.
That’s especially true of environmental issues, where denial and inaction are not uncommon reactions to real problems. We’ve seen some of that here in the early stages of contamination involving Varnicolor and what was Uniroyal Chemical (now Lanxess) in Elmira, issues where Marshall had a front-row seat.
Looked at through the lens of cover-ups and poor decisions, skepticism is the right response. Of course, that cuts both ways, most notably just now in skepticism over climate change. Here, too, we have to ask cui bono – who benefits? Much of the climate change denial and apparently contradictory evidence comes from dubious sources or from sources directly funded by industries intent on maintaining the status quo – it’s the same scenario at play with direct intervention in academia and “think tanks” by wealthy right-wing funding sources, which got underway in the years following the progressive, activist 1960s.
The current consensus is that years of pollution have contributed to climate change, which seems intuitively right given all the other deleterious effects pollutants have had on the environment and our own health. Even climate- change skeptics can’t argue the fact we’re poisoning the only home we have.
A concerted effort by vested interests – more than 90 per cent of skeptical climate change research is funded by politicized sources – makes it that some of us don’t know what to believe about climate change. We’re even more adrift over solutions.
Nothing wrong with being skeptical, including about the skeptics.
Ask questions. Don’t like the answers? Ask some more. But sometimes, like a cigar is just a cigar, an answer actually is just that.