Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A polite response to an oddly impolite letter

"My father always advised me to be wary of men with hyphenated names who wear beards, tweed jackets, and smoke pipes" - Kent Smerdon

Pictured above: Kent Smerdon's worst nightmare
This letter ran in yesterday's Barrie Examiner, in response to an earlier letter (which has not been posted in the online edition). I post it here with hyperlinks to support references.
(Re: “Columnist asked to ‘dial down the schoolyard bully rhetoric’” in the Aug. 21 edition of the Examiner)
I would like to thank Kent Smerdon for taking the time to read my columns and respond in these pages. Since Mr. Smerdon identifies himself as a Rotarian, I would also like him to know that I am thankful to the Barrie Rotary clubs for inviting me to speak about federal policy on several occasions, and to the Shelburne Rotary for sending me to visit the Alberta tar sands personally in 1989. I should note that back then, the terms tar sands and oil sands were used interchangeably by those in the industry, although technically both are incorrect; the sands contain neither oil nor tar, but bitumen which can be refined, at high energy and environmental cost, into synthetic heavy crude.
Mr. Smerdon feels I am bullying when I take well-paid syndicated columnists to task for their biases, using my own unpaid local column as a platform. This is certainly an interesting take on what I see as a David-and-Goliath situation (with myself as David). What is even stranger is that Ken began his criticism by mocking my name, my appearance, and what he assumes is my wardrobe. Usually that itself is an indication of bullying, no?
I actually am very interested in debate; Canada is long overdue for a deep and thorough conversation on the best way to make the reductions in carbon emissions our governments have pledged, and that are needed to forestall dangerous climate change. Whether a carbon tax shift, or a fee-and-dividend, or cap-and-auction are the best approach is something we must discuss and decide. Whether we redirect fossil fuel subsidies toward transit, or clean energy, or conservation and efficiency, is another debate I’m eager to enjoin.
I’ll admit not being interested in a “debate” about the reality of how we are causing climate change through our overuse of fossil fuels. The ones who benefit from that waste of time are fossil fuel industries themselves, which is why they funnel money to the same “independent” institutes who once worked hard to dismiss the harms of smoking and second-hand smoke, so they can create similar doubt about well-established climate science. These payments and spin strategies have been well documented. If 97% of mechanics say your brakes are shot, are you going to get them fixed, or visit the other 3%?
Mr. Smerdon’s bullying of Al Gore is also a surprise. To attack the man for living in a vintage 1920s home is a cheap shot, as is ignoring that he has converted it to include offices for his several businesses and organizations, reducing the need to commute to work. Rather than an energy hog, Mr. Gore has actually gone to the lengths of upgrading his home and office to LEED Gold standards! He’s a man who walks the walk.
Mr. Smerdon makes the same flawed assumption about me. I didn’t fly to the Chicago training “burning oceans of jet fuel”, I shared a ride with three other people in a Prius.
I don’t know why it matters that Gore sold the TV-station he bought from the state-owned media of one oil-producing nation (Canada’s CBC) to the state-owned media of another (Qatar’s Al Jazeera), unless someone has found a way to transport oil by cable or satellite. And the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” has held up very well over the years, despite having a few errors ordebatable points among the thousands of statements it presents. But unlike the tired old arguments of climate-change deniers, Mr. Gore’s presentation, the one I am trained to give, has been constantly updated to be accurate and current with the latest climate science and world events.
I hope Mr. Smerdon decides to attend a Climate Reality presentation and learn more. If he has issues with the science, I can certainly put him in touch with actual working climate scientists who can answer his questions, if I cannot.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins

Barrie, ON

1 comment:

  1. Your response was far more polite than mine would have been, that's for sure. Fantastic letter, Erich. Unsupported nonsense needs to be called out whenever it's encountered.