Opinion Column

Blowin' in the wind

David Hughes - Think About It

By David Hughes

David Hughes

David Hughes

What is it that singers, writers and artists do to capture the essence of an emotional moment, the seeds of a protest, the zeitgeist of an era? What do they see and hear that others don’t? Did Bob Dylan in his enduring song, Blowin' in the Wind, see the follies around him more clearly than others or did he just express them more incisively. In one, memorable line, Dylan encapsulates a timeless truth: "The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind....” It’s a compelling metaphor that says the answers are all around us and we can choose to see them, or not. In a 1962 interview Dylan said, "The answer is in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it's got to come down sometime...."

In Port Hope, there’s an example of answers that are, literally, blowin’ in the wind and yet, our elected officials seem to ignore them – specifically, answers to the proposed Entech-REM mega-incinerator. Evidence to date shows this project has been misrepresented by Entech-REM and could be very dangerous to our health. We must hope the Ministry of the Environment is looking closer than Council at what’s blowing in the wind because Council (except Councillor Greg Burns) isn’t asking tough questions nor do they seem concerned enough about the risks – unlike other politicians downwind from Port Hope.

On Feb. 11, Hamilton Township Council, and a standing-room-only crowd, received a presentation from Port Hope resident Stan Blecher, MD, Medical Geneticist and Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Guelph. Blecher spoke about the dangerous toxins that will be blowing in the Northumberland winds if this incinerator is built. He provided factual, well-sourced, peer-reviewed information, demonstrating critical flaws in Entech-REM’s claims. He said, “Of the 18 toxic emissions Entech-REM admits will be released into our air, 16 are known cancer producers. And prevailing westerly winds can carry cancerous toxins hundreds of kilometres.”

“Even low concentrations, accumulating over time, can become deadly … and there’s no such thing as a ‘safe dose,’” he added.

After the presentation, Mayor Mark Lovshin, referring to ash fallout, said, “It frightens me to death.” And Deputy Mayor Isobel Hie expressed particular concern about the impact on agriculture. Also downwind is Alnwick / Haldimand Township and they, too ,are inviting Blecher to address their council.

Something else troubling is blowing in the winds of Port Hope politics: a cloud of silence. Inexplicably, Council has never invited Blecher to make a presentation. In fact, last March and April two citizen delegations that are opposed to Entech-REM were scheduled to present to Council and then, mysteriously were cancelled. Why would Council not hear from well-informed constituents? Why would they not want more answers about toxic ash that, in Dylan’s words, “got to come down sometime” – on our land, water and food supply? Why are they plodding through a “prescribed process” that marginalizes citizen participation and buries democracy under the planning process? It makes no sense when the obvious answer for the health of our community is to stop the incinerator – now.

And guess what else is blowin’ in the wind? A big number: 81% of Ward 2’s adult citizens have signed a petition to deamalgamate from Port Hope. This is not a gentle breeze of discontent; this is a brewing storm that Council appears to have no interest in discussing. At Feb. 18 Council, there was just one question about where Ward 2 might go. How has Council allowed the situation to reach this crisis point?

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind….” And only incessant, tough questioning, from all citizens, can bring the winds of change to Port Hope.

David Hughes has authored and ghostwritten 12 books and lives at his keyboard in Port Hope. He can be reached at dhughes@straightspeak.com or straightspeak.com

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