Letter by Cathy Baiton, printed in the Lethbridge Herald (lethbridgeherald.com) Letters – August 27, 2010
Regarding the energy-environmental council proposed in the Aug. 7 guest column, itmay be helpful to have some concrete examples of specific issues and ideas the group would hope to advance for our community. As the column indicates, this council woulddesire complete independence in promoting its perspective, reinforced by what it woulddeem the best information.
If granted the privilege and public trust of a council like this, would it be fully receptive to information and suggestions from all citizens? As I’ve written before, one problem deserving attention is air pollution from the use of wood for heating and cooking, and wood-burning fire pit emissions. What sort ofposition or advocacy might the proposed council seek toprovide on this issue?
Internationally, a movement supported by concerned citizens as well as environmentalists, researchers, scientists and physicians is opposing biomass burning on an industrial scale, and the use of wood as a residential energy source. Some experts are challenging the claim that wood burning is carbon-neutral, and science confirms what a lot of people have discovered through experience:the combustion of wood — even in new, “certified” wood stoves — is considerably more polluting, and far less kind to human lungs, than cleaner energy alternatives.
At times my children have coughed in their beds at night, while toxic second-hand wood smoke, from which our current bylaws offer no protection, seeped into their rooms. Should people really have to tolerate any needless wood smoke in our urban environment, where everyone is sharing the air? I think cleaner and more socially compassionate energy options can and should be encouraged, with the most polluting and harmful practices best left behind. Would the existence of an energy-environmental council help to ensure clean, smoke-free air for better community health?
Perhaps our local officials may become willing toprovide informed and caring leadership on the wood smoke problem. It may help if more residents voice concerns aboutthe importance of fresh, clean air.
(Article link) “Wildfires and Biomass Burning Are Bigger Climate Change Threats than Previously Thought, Stanford Study Says”http://www.ibtimes.com/wildfires-biomass-burning-are-bigger-climate-change-threats-previously-thought-stanford-1646394From the above-linked article:“‘The bottom line is that biomass burning is neither clean nor climate-neutral,’ Jacobson said. ‘If you’re serious about addressing global warming, you have to deal with biomass burning as well.’According to his research, biomass burning has other impacts that increase warming in the atmosphere, beyond just producing greenhouse gas emissions. The process also creates tiny bits of soot, called black carbon, and traces of harmful substances, known as brown carbon, which together cause more global warming per unit weight than other human-associated carbon sources.”