Thursday, 19 September 2013

Billy Bishop and Me

Toronto City Council is deciding whether to allow Porter Airlines to expand Billy Bishop Airport for the use of bigger jet planes. Bishop is a small airport at one end of a cherished island park and a charming community near downtown Toronto. Our huge Pearson International Airport is on the city’s outskirts.

For those of you who don’t know Toronto, the city fronts on the shore of magnificent Lake Ontario at the place where two great rivers empty, the Don and the Humber. 
Just across from the downtown lakefront is an arc of treed islands accessible by ferry. Many decades ago a small airport was built on these islands amidst much controversy. Now Porter is fighting to make a yet bigger intrusion into this idyllic  lakeside space.

Needless to say, there is opposition from those who care more about environmental improvement and human wellbeing than about travel speed and increasing wealth.
I filled in the City’s survey here
Please consider doing the same.

When I read the survey’s page about possible health effects of the airport expansion it struck me that while there was mention of increased noise, air pollution and traffic injuries, nothing was said about an even deeper impact.

Our current definition of health includes what we call “wholeness” or, in spiritual language, “holiness”, an encompassing state of well-being. We want political decisions that will encourage healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy relationships with both our human kin and with the natural world on which our lives depend.

As I have commented on the survey, the downtown airport's noise already interrupts and taints our refreshing enjoyment of Toronto's lakeshore parks. Whether we're on the islands or using any of the boardwalks and parks near the water, it is impossible to ignore the roar of landings and takeoffs. The air traffic imposes mental distraction and adds stress, aside from its pollution of air and water.

Many of us would be willing to pay more taxes and/or reduce our consumerist demands in order that our governments not be tempted to prioritize economic growth and excessive accumulation of corporate wealth.

We who are glad to have learned that there are more important things in life than increasing our possessions need to speak out. Let us encourage our civil servants to grow the contentment quotient in our neighbourhoods instead of just the tax base.

In a time of violent confrontations and many suicides, maybe city planners and political advisors should ask citizens “What could be done to increase peace and joy for you and your family?”