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Dinosaurs, SUVs and a long hot summer.

I am slower to recover from the summer months than usual. Part of it, I am sure, is that I am getting old. The other part is that I don't remember it ever being so hot for so long in 27 years of trying to hide from the publishing business in the summer. It was darn near impossible to find our customers either.

Day after day, week after week, whether I was in Northern Ontario, Toronto or the East Coast the heat would not go away.

It felt like there was some kind of an experiment going on and the winners were toast and the losers were vaporized.

Wherever I went people were talking in serious tones about the heat the way people talk to one another in the big city after a huge snowstorm.

Some, believing the gods were making it perfectly clear we are destroying the planet with our pollution, were making commitments to buy smaller cars, others promising to sign up for solar heating or wind power, and still others promised to recycle their garbage.

It reminded me of being 14 and briefly considering organized religion if I could remain the leading scorer on the Don Mills Civitans hockey club until the end of the year.

I think it was July 28th when I broke.

I was sitting on the step of a house I have been renting for years in a small place called Petite Riviere, N.S.

It was 105 degrees F. Nova Scotia was experiencing one of its first province-wide smog alerts as a result of garbage sent its way from the U.S. Midwest. I was wearing my Tilley hat to keep from being killed, and I began to talk to my SUV.

I knew I had been sinning for more than a decade, moving from various jeeps that wouldn't start in the rain, to buying an Acura MDX this winter.

I love my Acura. It is big, brassy, quick and racing green.

At 100 degrees however, it is about as politically correct as wearing a dead baby seal around your neck at the annual Greenpeace fundraiser.

I confided to my four-wheel brute that it was nothing personal, but having him in the family was a complete act of hypocrisy and not without controversy.

I told him about how I felt about George Bush being bought and sold by the energy industry in the United States and trying to decimate the Environmental Protection Agency, which is the only thing between us and some future breath of fresh air. George is worse than Ronald Reagan who once claimed trees were a serious environmental hazard.

The brute said I was overreacting, and besides, he met the California environmental standards, which as far as he knew was unusual for any SUV. And if that was not enough, he was made in Brampton, home-town to Bill Davis, and a not bad lacrosse team there either. He thought Bill, for a fee, would be pleased to represent me in the court of public opinion if I ever needed such a thing. I said that is fine, but how do I look my kids in the eye and claim I talked the talk and walked the walk. You can't, he replied.

By this time the heat was so intense I could barely. see the offender, much less talk to it.

Around the corner came Jack Macintosh, proprietor of the home I was renting and of several others. His transportation as usual was a gas-guzzling five-tonne pickup. He overheard the conversation with my truck and said, "Look, rather than sell the beast, buy shares in Ballard Power and be done with it. With luck the price will go down, and you'll feel even better.

As it turned out this was very good advice. Ballard's shares have plummeted since that scorching smog-invested day. Ballard for the record is a Vancouver company set to the save the world with hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Jack picked up the garbage and moved on.

Jack is right. It is too late.

The only salvation is government legislation and the Ballards of this world. No one is going to give up his or her truck without a fight.

We are like smokers.

We know we are sinners, and we are prepared to pay the wages of sin, which most often is tax (cigarettes, gas) or ostracism. We feel guilty only when the result of our behaviour is shoved directly and unequivocally in our face.

Soon we may have to print "dangerous to your health" on the side of our vehicles along with our miles-per-gallon rating.

It cooled off a week ago.

No one is talking about tiny cars anymore.

Dinosaurs would have been big on SUVs.

Michael Atkins is president of Laurentian Publishing. Visit to read more of Atkins' columns.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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