Heat, heat, everywhere…

The Toronto Star has three articles that are inter-related. The first one is about Baby Boomers and how they will bear the brunt of smog-related illnesses over the next quarter century. I was struck by one of the stats provided: by 2026, up to 4,000 deaths each year in Toronto will be premature due our poor air quality. This made me wonder — if our drinking water was helping contribute to 4,000 premature death each year wouldn’t everyone would in this city be in a panic? But since the air is unseen, maybe we refuse to believe breathing in smoggy air is bad for us. We can avoid drinking water, but we can’t stop breathing….

The second article is an opinion piece by Matti Siemiatycki (a recent urban planning PhD grad from UBC) on traffic congestion and how to cut commuting times. He suggests congestion charges, carpooling, parking cash-out programs, and pay-as-you-go auto insurance. A little excerpt:

Linking transit infrastructure investments with more dense development is only one part of successfully reducing commuting times. In heavily congested cities such as Toronto, aggressive complementary strategies are necessary to support transit use and raise funds for new investments, while encouraging more efficient use of existing road space.

The third article is from Cathy Crowe, Toronto’s fabled Street Nurse. She discusses Toronto’s poor heat-wave planning. For example, an extreme heat alert was issued Sunday July 16 in Toronto, the third day of a heat wave. This triggered the opening of three cooling centres for partial daytime hours and one 24-hour centre. Ten days later, the City declared a heat alert but did not open cooling centres and city council voted to not even debate a motion on measures to respond to the heat. But in American cities, hundreds of cooling centres were set up including Baltimore (11 centres), St. Louis (60) Chicago (100) and New York (more than 300). Boston and Chicago had free shuttle bus services to transport vulnerable populations to cooling centres, situated in community centres, police stations, libraries, park facilities and other locations.

photo courtesy GLRC

3 comments

  1. It’s interesting to see what it takes to create a change. I was living in Chicago in 1995 when they had a heat wave were 600-700 people died. At that time they had 5, count ’em 5 cooling centers, which were not activated until the 4th day of the heat wave. One hopes a similar thing doesn’t have to happen here before the issue gets taken more seriously.

  2. Toronto looked really gross as my flight was coming into Pearson this evening: smog for as far as the eye could see. Quite a contrast from Seattle, where I took off from this morning, which seemed comparatively clean-aired and green-treed… (of course, there’s no heat wave crippling Puget Sound at the moment)

  3. >>…if our drinking water was helping contribute to 4,000 premature death each year wouldn’t everyone would in this city be in a panic?

    The effects of water poisoning are much less vague than the effects of ‘air poisoning’. If someone dies of a repiratory condition on a smog day, more likely than not, that death will be classified as a smog-related death, even if that person was sitting in an air-conditioned home, hooked up to an oxygen tank with no possible way for smog to get into the house in measurable quantaties and affect that person.

    Many of the diseases that are thought to be caused by smog can be brought on by a choice of lifestyle. Emphysema is brought on by smoking; asthma, by a sedentary lifestyle.

    Water-borne disease is a serious matter because there is nothing that a person can do (besides to chlorinate their water) to become less prone to it.

    Someone with respiratory problems can hide out at home during bad air days and avoid being afflicted. With water, people will inevitably need it. Tap water is the same throughout the city, no matter where you go; smog is not.

    Someone dying because of bad water is a serious matter, since so many things could have been done to water to make it safe to drink. The water supply is an entrusted source; air is not.

    These guilt-trip stats have to stop. Just because one person spends a sleepless, sweaty night in the sweltering heat because they turned off their air conditioner to ‘save a life’ does not necessarily mean that the life will be saved.

    The 4000 projected deaths from smog mean that the wheels of death have been set in motion. Why inconvenience ourselves more when these 4000 folk are going to die anyway?

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