The Sunday Magazine

Listener mail on the politics of fear, and city trees

Our listeners were not afraid to weigh in on the politics of fear, following our conversation with Penelope Ironstone of Wilfrid Laurier University. Also, mail in response to Michael's elegy for a city tree, keeps coming.

Most North Americans enjoy relatively comfortable, secure lives. So why are we so afraid of so many things ... including things that probably won't do us harm?

Last week on the program, Penelope Ironstone of Wilfrid Laurier University, explained how politicians cultivate public fears, and then claim to be the only ones who can protect us from those things they've encouraged us to fear.

Professor Ironstone gave the example of the Canadian government's decision to expand the war against Islamic State, and to introduce the controversial measures of Bill C-51. Necessary actions, the government argues, because jihadists have declared war on Canada.

Our listeners certainly were not afraid to weigh in on the politics of fear.
This email came from Robert Minty of Abbotsford, B.C.:

"The 20th century was replete with a cabal of politicians who worked hand in glove with the mass media to "jin" up the citizens of their nations to commit any number of atrocities. Nothing seems to have changed in the 21st century.Canadians need to be more actively involved in demanding clear facts and quantitative information. It is far better to jaw jaw jaw, than war war war."

Bill Hertha of Thornhill, Ontario picked up on some of that theme.

"Fear is an ancient and well-tuned instrument for achieving an agenda. Therefore it is up to each one of us to recognize when that card is being played and to consider the information being provided us accordingly. As noted in the segment, the media has a role, and when I look at the spectrum of offerings I see very few outlets that truly understand this role.  I am glad CBC and The Sunday Edition do, and I truly appreciate it. Thank you."

From Doug Young in Leduc, Alberta:

"How come you liberals from the CBC always contradict the elected politicians who are doing the right thing, protecting your children or relatives by sending our soldiers to stop these radicals from getting to Canada? Write something that Canadians want to read and remember."

Master Corporal (retired) Kelly Carter in Calgary sent these thoughts.

"I served in the Canadian Forces from 1983 to 2013, a hard thirty years of mostly operational assignments, from the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan.  I was one of the selected Canadian Forces personnel who had served on previous United Nations Operations, and received the Nobel Peace Prize for Canada.  Canada used to be a world leader as a neutral, very effective United Nations member force. Now, we have become too engulfed in United States-led missions. When the whole world, including a UN-approved mission, is involved to deal with serious threats, only then Canada should participate, like the damn fine United Nations member we used to be. And I stress, used to be."

Send your thoughts about anything you hear on our program, to, or go to our website and click on the "contact" link. And if you'd like to hear Penelope Ironstone, on the politics of fear, click here.

The mail about city trees keeps coming. This is from Fiona Hanley of Montreal. She writes:

 "One of the greatest benefits of cycling to work, is the sights and smells of the trees I pass on my way. In the spring I love to fill my lungs with the perfume of the blossom trees, and in the summer to find relief from the heat in their cooling shade. In the autumn, the heart-stopping beauty of the maples, signals the end of summer. But I am distressed at the lack of respect I see shown towards city trees. They are under constant siege. They more often than not serve as supports for discarded mattresses or bicycles, or as a centre-piece for arranging garbage. In the winter it is even worse, as the rapacious snow-clearing machines fail to distinguish between metal poles and tree trunks, and leave branches, ripped-off bark, chunks of soil, and sometimes the tree itself in their merciless wake. I would love to see more public campaigns to remind people of the work these trees do for us in cleaning the air, harbouring small city fauna, and giving us green spaces to heal our souls."

This came from Bruce Rogers of Prince George, B.C., who writes:

"I am research ecologist with the provincial government for north central British Columbia. I work on an ecosystem classification system, looking at how trees respond to climate change and shifting ecosystems. I once moved to the prairies to teach for a year, and although it was a beautiful landscape to work in, returning to my spruce and Douglas-fir covered hills was one of the most gratifying things I have ever experienced. Sometimes trees pose a risk and need to be altered or removed. But when I see people cutting down trees in the city purely for aesthetics, or because they don't like raking leaves, it makes me very sad."

 In his note, Bruce included a link to the University of British Columbia's "Big Tree" website. It provides links to a registry of the largest trees of every species in the province of B.C.  Some of the photographs of those giant trees are extraordinary. Bruce also sent along a song he wrote and recorded, called "These Trees."

To hear Michael's essay "Elegy for a tree" click here.



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