Beyond the stars
I was pleased to note that, out of the eight Canadian astronauts who travelled in space (“The other side of the sky,” The Space Issue, Sept. 7), six made reference to Earth, which Robert Thirsk called “a tiny fragile oasis of life” whose preservation is most important to human survival. Steve MacLean and Bjarni Tryggvason decried the effect of pollution and global warming that is clearly visible from space. I appreciated Julie Payette’s suggestion that we should apply the common responsibility that astronauts share in the maintenance of a spaceship to the maintenance of our home, Earth. The clock is ticking. Will the human species survive another 500 years to remember the International Space Station?
— Michel Farant, Ottawa
My first thought at living on the moon was one of absurdity for a chosen few: -270° C for 14 days and above 100° C for another 14 (“Colonizing the Moon,” The Space Issue, Sept. 7)? How could this way of life be beneficial for seven billion earthlings? Then again, I thought, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad: no rivers to pollute, no animals to mistreat or exterminate. Maybe we could send all those people who take Earth for granted to the Moon. It already looks ruined; they might be at peace with themselves in such a desolate and bleak environment. By depleting Earth of all its resources to live in space, we might end up having two spheres to live on—but at what price? Both might end up looking like the moon. That’s a scary thought.
—Richard Bérubé, Guyenne, Que.
When writing about space exploration, it is very important to distinctly separate reality from science fiction. We will never colonize the Moon, just as we have never colonized the Sahara desert, Antarctica or the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The environment in these places is simply too harsh to support human life, despite the fact that they are veritable gardens of Eden compared to the Moon or any other place in space. The human body is too fragile to thrive anywhere other than on Earth. Sure, we need to explore space, but sending humans out there, along with their elaborate life-support systems, is simply the wrong way of doing it. Remote sensing and robots is the way to go.
—Nash Soonawala, Winnipeg
Why would anyone want to leave this beautiful planet to go colonize hostile and unknown destinations so remote? And where do the trillions of dollars in funding come from? Even a small portion of this “wealth” would go a long way to feeding the starving, educating the illiterate, providing jobs for the unemployed, improving health care for the needy and providing new cities for the millions of displaced persons here on Earth. We have enough serious problems here.
— Ralph Meyer, Sechelt, B.C.
I groaned when I saw Maclean’s Sept. 7 cover. I understand the intrigue of the unknown, but space exploration is so blah, expensive, never-ending—and utterly useless! So what if yet another planet or star is discovered? We have enough intrigue on our own planet to explore, and discoveries here on Earth might actually be meaningful in our daily lives.
— Judy Alger, Vernon, B.C.
Imagine my excitement for an out-of-this-world space-themed edition of “The Quiz” in your latest double issue, only to discover a black hole. Instead of probing the heavens with trivia, you kept loyal readers firmly on Earth.
—Nicholas Kaempffer, Oromocto, N.B.
Related: Take the Maclean’s Space Quiz here
Don’t encourage them
I was intrigued by “Reluctant enablers” (This Week, Aug. 24), which stated, “New research out of Germany suggests media coverage of terrorism spurs terrorists to do further harm.” You then ask: “Where would Islamic State and al-Qaeda be without us?” I’ve subscribed to Maclean’s for almost 40 years, and that is the most intelligent and hopeful comment you have ever made. Terrorism cannot, and will not, survive when the world media stop talking about it in the name of “news.” To terrorists, it is propaganda.
—Bill J. Irvin, Spruce Grove, Alta.
Bombs are not the answer
I am devastated by Stephen Harper’s response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Europe (“Life after the life before,” International, Aug. 3). Silent on the tragedy of thousands of refugees unfolding before our eyes, courageous people who ask only to live, our leader coldly reaffirms his only solution: bombs. His apparent gross indifference does not represent my Canada. There is no sign of dignity in this, only crass weakness.
—Jacqueline Pelletier, Ottawa
Not our war
I’m a militarist, but those suggesting that Canada should not be involved in this ill-conceived war against Islamic State are quite correct (“The foggy war,” International, Sept. 7). No one would disagree that Islamic State is an abhorrent menace from which we should protect our country. However, our participation in this war is not accomplishing this. It is, in fact, bolstering Islamic State’s appeal and strength. The war in the Middle East must be fought and won or lost by Arabs. Western interference only builds resentment and fosters ill will toward us. Saudi Arabia has an active-duty military of roughly 230,000 personnel, which is better equipped than Canada’ roughly 68,000 active-duty military, who are forced to use old, obsolete and often malfunctioning equipment.
—Paul Ankcorn, Midland, Ont.
Surviving solitary confinement
In response to Cathy Gulli’s article on solitary confinement for youth in Ontario (“Playing solitary,” National, Sept. 7), I have a contrary experience. I am permanently institutionalized in the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, B.C. One of the nurses here was quoted as saying it houses “the most dangerous patients in the province.” At the beginning of my stay here in 2010, I spent more than five consecutive months in solitary confinement. I was being punished—in other words, treated—for violent tendencies related to a paranoid psychosis that led me to attack several people over several months. This included me attacking five people in institutional settings on my final day of freedom. While I cannot speak for people who put youth in solitary confinement, I have a feeling those in favour of this practice might say the following: It works. And if you’re afraid of a youth punching a wall until his fists bleed, maybe consider what would happen if the youth inmate were allowed to vent his anger on a staff member—or another youth.
— Jordon Roy Gowans, Coquitlam, B.C.
Quebec is already providing child care for about $7 a day, so it can be done, and several 2014 studies, including one by the Toronto-Dominion Bank, found that governments reap $1.50 in tax revenue for every $1 they invest in child care (“The election issues,” Election 2015, Aug. 24). So what’s the matter with the other provinces? And why is this even an issue in the current federal election?
— Alan A. Ross, Toronto
A provincial concern
Evan Solomon states that Stephen Harper “fundamentally believes” health care is the purview of the provinces—even though our Constitution clearly states this is fact (“The missing heart of this campaign,” Sept. 7). Solomon laments that health care should be a campaign issue in this federal election, even though the feds have little more stake in health care than the Canada Health Act. It’s true that governments in the past have funded provincial health care through transfer payments, but the administration of health services is, and should be, the jurisdiction of provinces. If a health care debate is needed in Canada, and I believe it is, the debate needs to be in provincial legislatures, not during a federal election campaign.
— Tony Ollenberger, Saskatoon
Powerless or helpless?
While reading Brian Bethune’s review of Marc Lewis’s book The Biology of Desire (Books, Sept. 7), about diagnosing and treating addiction, I was offended by the twice-used term “helplessness.” I can’t comment on the terminology used in other 12- step programs, but in Alcoholics Anonymous, the term used is “powerless,” as in “powerless over alcohol.” In AA, although we are powerless over alcohol, with the program of AA, we are anything but helpless.
— Chris R. (last name withheld by request), Lethbridge, Alta.
You’re doing it wrong
There is no hard evidence to conclusively prove that the trend of adult colouring books leads to a variety of health problems (Colouring ’til it hurts,” Bazaar, Sept. 7). If you do any activity for up to 10 hours a day, of course, there will be pain! There are crayons and chalk pastels and other materials colourists could use that would not cause any health problems. I frequently colour with gel pens, which one does not have to press hard; the ink freely flows onto the page. And yes, middle-aged people who do this activity experience pain for all sorts of reasons, but that is also simply a part of growing older. Don’t blame the colouring books!
— Chloé Pike, Ottawa
Really—people are injuring themselves in order to spend more hours a day colouring?! While I, too, have a modest collection of colouring materials, and am in that middle-aged or older-woman demographic mentioned as the main group undertaking this activity, I believe it was meant to be a simple bit of downtime from too much stress, complexity and technology in our lives. Without moderation, almost anything can run amok.
— Adela Torchia, Gabriola, B.C.
The 16-page layout detailing the history of the British monarchy was most informative and very detailed. I had spent many sleepless nights wondering when the length of Victoria’s reign would be eclipsed by Elizabeth’s, so learning the exact minute that will happen (“23,226 days, 16 hours, 24 minutes,” Queen Elizabeth II: A Record Reign, Aug. 24) will allow me to sleep calmly for years to come.
Jim L. Sekerak, Sarnia, Ont.