Letters to the editor for the week of May 7th 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MY GOOD IMAGES / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - April 26, 2015 Ruins at the Durbar square in Kathmandu Nepal after earthquake.
  • photo by My Good Images / Shutterstock.com
  • April 26, 2015 Ruins at the Durbar square in Kathmandu Nepal after earthquake.

Reaching out to Nepal

I am writing on behalf of Whistler Secondary School, which is now accepting clothing donations in order to sell them to raise funds for Nepal earthquake relief.

As many are aware, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake (in Nepal on April 25) has killed over 7,000 people and the death toll continues to rise.

We are asking anyone with unwanted clothing items to drop them off at Whistler Secondary School. (We will be hosting a community clothing sale) in the hopes of raising money for those currently suffering from the after effects of this devastating incident in Nepal. Watch out for the sale!

Carli Leppard, WSS Grade 11


One of the greatest achievements ever in medicine

Thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated; parents in the Western hemisphere no longer worry about their children coming down with polio each summer, as they did in the 1950s; and today's medical graduates no longer fear cases of epiglottitis and meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), as I did in my early years of practice.

This week is National Immunization Awareness Week in Canada, and it's an opportunity to reflect on one of the greatest achievements in medicine: the development of vaccines. 

Some Canadian parents choose not to vaccinate their children, and feel safe in doing so because of the blanket of protection provided by other children around them who are vaccinated.

However, recent outbreaks of measles in Canada, many traced to unvaccinated children and youth who acquired the virus abroad and brought it home, have been cause for concern. These imported cases have exposed pregnant women, infants too young to be vaccinated, and children receiving cancer treatment whose suppressed immune systems put them at high risk from measles exposures.

As a result of these outbreaks, there is now greater understanding amongst the public that vaccination is not only critical for our personal protection and our children's health, but also for the protection of vulnerable adults and children around us. 

Some experts say we have developed all the easy vaccines, and now all new vaccines are challenging.

Most vaccines are developed by the pharmaceutical industry, and if the disease is rare, or only found in poor, developing countries, they may not want to make the investment — think of Ebola vaccine.  Other diseases prove to be a challenge even with large investments; HIV was identified more than 30 years ago, but a vaccine has proved elusive despite massive research efforts. 

During this National Immunization Awareness Week, we can all do our part to continue to spread the success of immunizations.  A few suggestions:

• Parents can make sure their children's vaccinations are up to date. Check here for the schedule of free vaccines: http://www.immunizebc.ca/vaccine-schedules. Check here for additional vaccines that you can purchase to offer more protection to your children: www.vch.ca/media/VCH-vaccines-NACI-2015.pdf

• Adults shouldn't forget about immunizations — for example, young adults may need a measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) booster, and shingles vaccine can be offered to everyone aged 50 years and older. Check here for vaccines that are available for free and purchase: www.vch.ca/media/VCH-public-and-private-vaccines-adult.pdf

• All of you planning on travelling outside North America or Europe this spring and summer should visit a travel clinic for pre-travel advice and vaccination: travelclinic.vch.ca/

Dr. Patricia Daly

Chief Medical Health Officer

Vancouver Coastal Health

Bike park rocks

The real kudos should go to all you riders. It's your enthusiasm that's made the park what it is today.

Eric Wight


Congrats to Pique

On behalf of our members, the Whistler Chamber would like to congratulate (the Pique) team on its recent win at the BC & Yukon Community Newspaper Awards in the "Business Writing" category.

In particular, we would like to thank Braden Dupuis, Brandon Barrett and Alison Taylor for their outstanding coverage of the temporary foreign worker issue here in Whistler.

The judges had this to say: "Excellent reporting on a topic of utmost relevance to the community. A good example of how to enhance public understanding of this difficult topic, without patronizing the reader, but still remaining light and readable."

Your thoughtful, consistent coverage has helped us in our advocacy efforts, created context around the complex labour issues that face our resort, and elevated Whistler's business.

Our chamber — and our members — thank you.

Val Litwin, CEO

Whistler Chamber of Commerce

'Super' senior

When one receives the Canadian old age pension, one is a senior.

Since I am in my 80s, I wish, henceforth to be known as a "super" senior.

Take note Nick Davies and GD Maxwell.

Isobel MacLaurin


Boxing on its way out

Apart from the distaste some of us have for boxing and other blood sports, such as bull fighting and cockfighting, not to mention feeding Christians to the lions, some of us don't consider boxing to be a sport.

Philosophy and opinions aside, boxing has become increasingly irrelevant for at least a generation, diminished by the growth of team sports, predatory management, flimsy oversight, the lack of charismatic champions, general ineptitude, blundering, brutality, and social change. 

Many are simply sickened by the sight of two human beings attempting to hurt each other physically, as if there wasn't enough pain in this world already.

In my case, I'm not interested in this low-life carnival of absurdity. I'm looking forward to the Roland Garros French Tennis Open followed by Wimbledon: competition, drama, and skill reaching the pinnacle of what many of us consider to be the very definition of sport.

Doug Garnett


Black Diamond Betties thank you

Now that we have all recovered from the WSSF festivities, the whole Whistler Roller Derby team, the Black Diamond Betties, would like to thank all our amazing sponsors.

Our April 11 bout against our rivals, the Squamish Sea to Sky Sirens was a huge success. No other roller derby team gets to play in such an incredible venue as the Whistler Conference Centre. 

For the first time, we were able to play without a fence and therefore provided front row "suicide" seating for our spectators. All would agree that this added energy and excitement to the evening.

What a game it was! The unofficial score was favouring the Sirens, but after tallying the last few points, the final score gave the win to the Betties by one point!

We will be facing the Sirens once more this season on May 30 in Squamish. We can't wait.

But how could we possibly have done this without the help of our community? As a non-profit society, we rely on the amazing businesses that have been faithful to us throughout the years. Thank you for your support, your financial help and endorsement: World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Rona, Scotiabank, Peak Performance Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy, Whistler Superior Properties, Creekside Dental, Gibbons and Garfinkel's, RollerGirl, Whistler Adventures, Pique Newsmagazine, Question, Scandinave Spa, Mountain, FM, Whistler FM, InBiz Print, Regional Recycling.

Thank you also to all the volunteers' devotion and the spectators' encouragements. We do love to put on a good show !

Hope to see you all again real soon. Enjoy a fabulous summer.

Celine Scarlet (a.k.a. TuTu LaRude)


PVTA trail day

A heart felt thank you is due to the volunteers who came out for the Pemberton Valley Trails Association's annual spring trail day.

It is always gratifying to see our community's willingness to invest time and energy into improving and maintaining the trail network.

Volunteers are the backbone of the PVTA and our trails, all user groups are welcome and encouraged to participate.

Ian Kruger

Director of Trails, Pemberton Valley Trails Association

Which Squamish will you choose?

While the economic lure of the proposed Woodfibre Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility may seem appealing, Squamish residents must take a closer look at the long-term implications of having an LNG facility situated on the ecologically sensitive Howe Sound, especially in a world where the effects of global climate change are already beginning to be felt.

In my opinion, Squamish is at a crossroads where we have a chance of becoming part of a greener future, or we can regress to our town's industrial past. In light of the plummeting prices of oil and gas, is it really worth the 100 or so new jobs to build a natural gas facility that will promote the continued reliance on fossil fuels and the degradation of our highly diverse ecosystems?

Will we risk our new image and tourism industry for the sake of a foreign company's desires to profit off LNG?

Squamish has recently been described by the New York Times as one of the "must visit" locations of 2015. In 2014 CNN has also deemed Squamish the best mountain town in North America to visit in the summer.

Also, with the likes of the completion of the wildly popular Sea to Sky Gondola, and large events such as the Squamish Valley Music Festival and national kite-boarding championships, it does not seem like a logical step to move again toward industry, especially an industry that could have such vast and lasting consequences on Howe Sound.

Squamish should embrace its new and rising tourist image and face the reality that industry in Squamish is on the decline.

Since the closure of the pulp mill in 2006, Squamish has worked hard in redefining the space and its new place in the world as a "must see" tourism destination, and for the most part it has largely paid off with international attention now being given to the town.

Besides risking tourism, an LNG tanker disaster or pipeline rupture could also destroy much of the aquatic and intertidal life present in Howe Sound and the Squamish Estuary.

A study by the David Suzuki Foundation has put a value on Squamish's ecosystems and found that the Howe Sound and its contributing watersheds provide up to $4.7 billion in ecosystem services ("ecosystem services" being natural services provided through ecological processes, such as carbon capture, waste filtration, and pollination to name a few).

The value of our marine life alone is estimated to be valued at over $100 million.

Though this study is one of the first of its kind, and valuation of natural processes is still in its early stages, putting a dollar value on the services that nature provides is important for realizing just how vital these ecosystems are to the overall well being of not just the environment, but also those living within it.

The economic perks of the Woodfibre LNG pale in comparison to the costs for cleanup and restoration if there was ever a marine-tanker disaster or a pipeline rupture in Squamish.

Besides the economic reasons, Squamish residents should also not allow Woodfibre LNG to go ahead simply because now is the time to act on climate change.

People must realize that this is a truly global problem that will affect us all, even if the gas isn't being burned here, it will be burned elsewhere and thus will continue to increase the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

While many argue that LNG, or natural gas, is OK to burn because it releases only small amounts of carbon dioxide, it must be noted that LNG can release large amounts of methane, which is over 20 times better at trapping radiation in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (EPA, 2014).

This can have scary implications —especially when people like B.C. Premier Christy Clark boast that Canadian LNG will rid China of its coal dependence — as this is essentially just taking the lesser of two evils.

People must realize that LNG is still a fossil fuel and that even if it is slightly better for the environment, the real solution is to end our reliance on gas all together and to begin investing in alternatives.

While many naysayers may scoff at "green alternatives" as hippie/communist propaganda, they should instead realize the vast economic and social potentials of a budding green economy.

The end of oil and gas does not mean the end of the world — as many large oil companies may have you believe — it simply means the beginning of a new energy economy.

With this in mind, which Squamish would you want to live in? The Squamish where we bowed to big oil and shouldered all the risk for a natural gas company based out of Singapore, so that we could make a few jobs and a quick couple million dollars?

Or the Squamish that seized its opportunity to become a truly a world-class tourist destination while moving to the forefront of the green revolution to end humanity's reliance on an ever more scarce resource.

The decisions of today will undoubtedly affect the lives of generations yet unborn. Let's leave them with a town that chose to make the right and moral decision, one that embraced Squamish as a place of natural beauty and realized the value of our natural systems that so many here seem to take for granted.

Riley Peterson


Is Woodfibre LNG worth the risk?

The environmental tragedies of the last (few) weeks have made one thing clear: accidents happen.

On Wednesday, April 8, about 2,800 litres of toxic bunker fuel was spilled in English Bay, and the black tar-like sludge has been washing up on Vancouver's beaches. A little over a week later, a dock fire at Squamish Terminals blazed out of control, with toxic smoke from the burning creosote pilings lingering over town.

The details of the emergency response for these two accidents show that the provincial and federal governments don't have the capacity to deal with these kinds of accidents.

Even B.C. Premier Christy Clark admitted: "We don't have world-class spill response on our coast."

In English Bay, the emergency response was delayed by several hours because the Harper Conservatives closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in 2013, turning this relatively small spill into a major tragedy. Responders from the Kitsilano Coast Guard could have been on site with the right equipment in six minutes, preventing a costly cleanup of Vancouver's beaches.

In Squamish, the coast guard response was much quicker, potentially because of the political backlash the previous week; however, the emergency response was still heavily reliant on volunteer firefighters fighting alongside career firefighters from Squamish, Whistler, and the City of Vancouver — all of whom worked around the clock and did a tremendous job despite limited capacity.

How does this relate to Woodfibre LNG? Government cuts have created a situation where regulators do not have sufficient staff, knowledge, or money to effectively regulate the oil and gas industry, leaving industry to monitor itself. Remember Lac Megantic? What about the Mt. Polley tailings pond spill? These accidents were never meant to happen.

Negligent government oversight and a self-regulating industry, combined with a lack of emergency response capacity can only mean that we will see more incidents like this in the future.

Woodfibre LNG and its associated tankers, pipelines, and compressor stations pose an unacceptable safety risk for people in Squamish and other communities along the shores of Howe Sound. We need to stand up and say enough is enough.

Tracey Saxby

Co-founder My Sea to Sky Squamish

China's pollution problem

An obstacle to rational decision making in climate policy is the confusion between carbon dioxide (CO2) and air pollution.

Real air pollution, such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and soot, is important to control and we have done a good job in most of Canada reducing the concentration of these substances.

But CO2, an odourless, colourless gas that is an essential to plant photosynthesis, is not pollution. The poor air quality in China's cities has nothing to do with CO2.

So why would David Suzuki bring up climate change and Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in his article about air pollution in China? (Pique, "Science Matters" April 16.) It is because of his concern that GHG emissions, primarily CO2 from human activities, will result in climate problems.

After 18 years with no global warming while CO2 levels have risen 10 per cent, GHG-caused climate concerns are becoming an increasingly difficult sell. So Suzuki and many politicians piggyback debatable climate change concerns on top of genuine pollution worries, apparently hoping they can sell the former by associating it with the latter.

While this tactic might succeed for a while from a public relations perspective, it makes no sense scientifically. It is akin to promoting the building of an asteroid defense system, an expensive endeavour of highly uncertain value, by associating it with vitally important cancer research.

Suzuki must help society distinguish between unrelated issues, not confuse us with red herrings.

Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (thermo-fluid sciences)

Executive Director, International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) Ottawa


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