Column: Having perspective keeps us grounded

By: Mark Gentili - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 28, 2014 - 3:19 PM |
There were several important and interesting stories in the news this week. Taking a bird’s eye view as I looked over the pieces we brought to you, it seemed I could draw a theme from the items the reporters here at NorthernLife.ca covered. I will attempt, in my own small way, to offer some perspective.

Sudbury has its first case of measles in nearly 20 years, the Sudbury and District Health Unit announced on Saturday. Although I’m just a few months shy of 40, I’ve never actually encountered measles, unlike my parent’s generation for which the disease was a real threat. Unfortunately, it seems the threat is once again very real.

Measles cases have been on the rise across the western world since around the mid-2000s. I think we can lay a big helping of blame for this squarely at the feet of the anti-vaccination movement. It really gathered steam when Hollywood celebrity Jenny McCarthy — like all celebrities, an expert in medical science — began her anti-vaccination crusade.

Those who refuse vaccinations are clearly uninformed, clearly entrenched in their position and clearly incapable of accepting decades of evidence proving the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

They are also putting the lives of their children, as well as yours and mine, at risk for debilitating illnesses that had all but been eradicated — thanks to vaccines.

Moving away from illness, the very active Minnow Lake Community Action Network (CAN) deserves a shout out for successfully lobbying the city to include a bike lane in the Second Avenue roadwork this summer.

This active CAN demonstrated what citizen’s groups can accomplish when they set clear goals and work toward them with determination, and the Second Avenue project will no doubt be that much better for their input.

I do need to offer one bit of criticism, however. Even as the CAN got what it wanted — the inclusion of a bike lane — the group is attempting to take its lobbying one step further, arguing the road should not be five-laned, as traffic data suggests it should, but remain as three.

Here is where the CAN and I differ. Public input on projects is important, but groups must also accept that they don’t know everything and must defer to the expertise of city staff, even if that expert opinion differs from theirs.

Interpreting current and projected traffic data to determine the best course of action for road work is one of those areas.

Minnow Lake CAN chair John Lindsay told NorthernLife.ca last week that the Internet has the information to make anyone an expert. Now, I like John. He’s community-minded, a tireless volunteer and an all-round nice guy, but on this point, I couldn’t disagree more. Visiting a few websites does not put you on par with city staff, who have years and sometimes decades of education and experience at their disposal.

I can watch several heart surgeries on YouTube, but I doubt Health Sciences North would deem it appropriate to hand me a scalpel.

And finally, NorthernLife.ca carried several stories related to the plight of people in developing nations. We’ve provided a few of those on page four of this week’s paper. Child soldiers, the Rwandan genocide and the sometimes hazardous production conditions in countries like Bangladesh, which western nations rely on to keep the cost of consumer products affordable, were all in the spotlight.

The stories are heartbreaking and remind us that as good as we have it in Canada, others pay for our good fortune, and that sometimes we benefit from the terrible inequality between the planet’s haves and have nots.

While we worry over vaccine conspiracies and bike lanes, people in other places worry over much more tangible and pressing concerns — for their country, themselves and their children.

I’m not suggesting the measles outbreak or the dispute over Second Avenue are unimportant — they are important. But sometimes, when we get caught up in things, it can be equally important to find some perspective to help keep us grounded.

Mark Gentili is the managing editor of Northern Life and NorthernLife.ca.
Mark Gentili

Mark Gentili

Staff Writer


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