Letters in the Globe and Mail

September 16, 2014

World’s climate

We deny climate change because we spend our lives indoors (The Perfect Storm of Climate Change – Sept. 15). Masai people in remote parts of Kenya that I visited this summer are convinced, because they experience its reality every day – unusual weather, rainy and dry seasons changed, the grasses not growing long enough to thatch their huts.

We could see the same evidence for ourselves, if we wanted to – and then we would have good reason to make the necessary changes.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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August 14, 2013

Ribbons on a fist

Re Give Democracy A Chance In Egypt (Aug. 13): Recent events in Egypt underscore the truth that 21st-century democracy is not the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people, merely because one group has a few more votes than the rest.

When Mohammed Morsi chose to rewrite the constitution and sideline the judiciary, tyranny was already in the ring.

An “illiberal” democracy is an oxymoron. What democracy means today needs to be negotiated everywhere – across classes, genders, generations and cultures – but it needs to reflect an equality of voice and opportunity. Anything else is merely putting pretty ribbons on an iron fist.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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July 25, 2013

Cut railway risks

Kenneth Taylor reminds us that risk management is part of living in an industrial culture. But good risk management requires systems thinking, and the rail system has been neglected by the federal government for decades (Energy Comes With Risks. We Learn To Manage Them – July 24).

The Heinrich Pyramid is used to illustrate the relationship between small incidents, often related to human error, and major accidents in the aviation industry. If the number of minor incidents is reduced, there are fewer major accidents.

Rail is the cheapest, safest and least environmentally destructive form of transportation. But if it remains underfunded, poorly maintained and undercut by government subsidies of road and air systems, it will continue to crumble as those small incidents pile up. Lac-Mégantic will be the first of many avoidable tragedies.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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April 23, 2013

And, Not Or

Margaret Wente is right to say environmental problems require a more pragmatic response; she is wrong to say “McKibbenists” are being defeated at every turn. Bill McKibben would be the first to say that it is a grassroots effort, not his. I witnessed a thousand young Canadians in Ottawa make that point at PowerShift 2012 in October, and the number continues to grow.

I just returned from Charleston, W. Va., where I spoke to the coal mining industry about ethics and sustainability. The Appalachian Research Initiative on Environmental Science (ARIES) sponsored the conference. It was a tough crowd, but they listened.

Keystone XL has been made into a symbol that polarizes the debate into winners and losers. Instead, we need more discussion about the real issues we all will face, very soon, and what can be done at a local level.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg, author, Gift Ecology: Reimagining a Sustainable World


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March 1, 2013

Audacity of hope

Having just returned from the first universal session of the United Nations Environment Program’s Governing Council in Nairobi – I was the lone Canadian civil society representative – I believe Sheema Khan is absolutely right (Beyond Tolerance Lies True Respect – Feb. 28).

For 10 days, I experienced the ways people crossed all boundaries of race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender and other differences while dealing with complicated issues.

Tolerance gave way to respect, admiration and kinship within hours, as we wrestled with how to work together for a better future, comfortably and with enthusiasm.

Through that celebration – and transcendence – of difference, another world really is possible.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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December 28, 2012

What to cut

Efficiency is about doing well what you are supposed to be doing. If universities stopped obsessing about job training and went back to providing education, the areas to cut would be obvious (Survival Of The Fittest – Dec. 26). The underfunded college system would finally get enough money to address its waiting lists for all the technical programs from which graduates are most needed for the existing jobs in Canada’s economy.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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July 14, 2012

A different debate

Jim Powers (Nor Can Men Have It All – July 13) explores a question that reflects a generation’s myopia: Parents – male or female – may debate whether they “can have it all.” Their kids wonder if there will be anything left to have and debate whether they should have children of their own in such an unsustainable society.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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April 18, 2012

Moore’s Law

Why is it that the exponential doubling of Moore’s Law is only applied to good things? Peter Diamandis and acolyte Neil Reynolds (Waiting For The Age Of Abundance – April 16) need to consider it also applies to poor choices and destructive acts.

The utopian fantasy they describe runs afoul of greed, corruption and the AK47-cent solution to the obstacles to acquiring power and money. A brighter, sustainable future requires better choices, for better reasons, than we seem to be making right now.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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April 16, 2012

The agony of David Suzuki

When it comes to combusting all that lovely oil in our new petro-ized Canada, the cash is small comfort. It is akin to congratulating ourselves on gaining admittance to the first-class dining room on Titanic’s maiden voyage. We are not all environmentalists, but we are all passengers or crew – and on R.M.S. Earth, there are no lifeboats at all.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg


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February 23, 2012

In the public square

Robert Joustra’s Beware The Secular Atheocracy (online, Feb. 22) is welcome therapy for the philosophically dyslexic.

Arguing about secularism versus religion misrepresents the role played by values in the choices we make. Both labels merely disguise the substantive issues that, as a society, we should be debating in the public square.

Rather than shutting down the discussion, we need to rearrange the terms so everyone can understand what’s really at stake.

Peter H. Denton, Winnipeg


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January 5, 2012

Means, ends

As someone who teaches about religion in the public sphere, I agree with Irvin Studin (Here’s How Canada Can Be A Global Player – Jan. 4). He argues that Canada needs to focus on developing the means to engage issues on the world stage, not simply proclaiming what we want to do. To extend his example, too many Canadian universities fail to develop an understanding at home of what the Office of Religious Freedom is intended to defend abroad.

Peter H. Denton, Winnipeg


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December 26, 2011

Time was, you could be public about your religion but not about sex. These days, sex is public, while religion is largely private. But Margaret Wente is right (Still The Greatest Story Ever Told – Dec. 24): Western religious institutions have not responded to the desire for religious or spiritual experience in the same way as institutions in the global South.

Questions about budding spirituality are likely to be met with the same response as to those questions about the birds and the bees: “Go ask your mother!”

Peter H. Denton, Winnipeg