Fear of the unknown No doubt this has happened to people who have had the opportunity to travel away from our little corner of the world. You are in the midst of a huge city, teem- ing with strange, fascinating and beautiful people. You are taking in unfamiliar and scintillating sights, sounds, smells, sensa- tions, while trying to comprehend a com- plex subway, bus and streetcar network. On a crowded sidewalk, you are ap- proached by a creature who has all the

seeing the solar panels up close, few of us knew much about polycrystalline photo- voltaic modules. These panels appear to be fairly innocu- ous and, after all, they do represent bright new green opportunities. However, as critics often insist, we really have no way of knowing the long-term impacts such installations will have on us and our planet. But, that caveat applies to almost every- thing, eh? For example, let us say that we heeded every health warning and swallowed ev- ery flavour-of-the-week “super food.” We would likely be altering our diets on a daily basis because, let’s see, today cof- fee will kill you and tomorrow coffee will save you. And, what if we did all live longer and healthier lives? We have no way of pre- dicting what the world would be like if the planet were populated by millions of 130-year-old people hogging tennis courts and skateboard ramps. And imag- ine the number of silver-haired drivers crawling along highways, with the left- hand signal indicator perpetually acti- vated. There are some issues that will be dis- cussed for eons to come. Every community from time to time fac- es a proposal that sparks the “Not In My Backyard” syndrome. Remember that mega pig farms were once the cause of much public consterna- tion. Nobody would want to live beside a long series of pork operations, because they, like many forms of agriculture, create unpleasant odours. But an inva- sion of “hog factories” in eastern Ontario never came to be and somehow life has managed to go on, despite the erection of large-scale pig facilities across the re- gion. Here again, do we have reason to be afraid of intensive agriculture? Knowledge is power, so before forming an opinion we must explore all facets of every issue in a cold, objective fashion, basing any conclusion on hard facts. Ha, ha, just kidding. We do not live in research labs, folks. If youbreathe, youhave views, thoughts, conceptions and misconceptions about everything. The best we can hope for is that we do our best to arrive at that elusive“informed position.”This approach does not guaran- tee you will prevail; it only means you will look educated while you are engaged in a debate. So, Vankleek Hill may be getting a treat- ment centre for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. What do you think of that? The people behind the plan to set up an addiction treatment centre in the former convent are moving slowly. At a recent Champlain Township coun- cil meeting, Daniel Champagne, of La Fondation ange gardien, and planner Pierre Mercier assured nervous residents no formal application for a required zon- ing change would be made until citizens were fully informed of the plan. Already people have spoken out about the idea. An open house is scheduled to be held later this month to provide more details. Chances are that information will not change anyone’s preconceived ideas about this particular notion. But, as impromptu encounters on a busy street have shown, you can never judge a book by its cover.

trappings of a homeless person, emitting unfamiliar sounds and odours. Self-preservation senses tingle. Let’s see... do you offer him money, avoid eye contact, gird something valuable? Do you put on your best Ottawa Valley accent and ask the lad where the livestock barn is? But before you even have a chance to be- come apprehensive, the stranger flashes a smile.

“You look lost,” points out the toothless man who then proceeds to guide the con- fused tourists in the right direction. After exchanging the mandatory “Have a good day,”we go along our merry way. Now wasn’t that nice? We met a real homeless person, and lived to recount our anecdote. However, nobody is so innocent as to believe that every brief urban encounter with a stranger has a happy ending. There are some mean animals lurking in any concrete jungle. We must be vigilant, but we do not have to make ourselves sick worrying about the worst possible scenario, either. Fictional fear merchants, such as Ed- gar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock, are successful because, in most cases, the audiences scare themselves. Masters of suspense understand that the unseen is more frightening than the obvious. In the real world, fear of the unknown is a major cause of stress; it is also an effec- tive lobbying tool and a proven political strategy. “There goes the neighbourhood and maybe the entire concession.” You are bound to hear such warnings whenever a new idea surfaces, particular- ly when the idea involves a new land use or a zoning amendment, or an alternate vocation for an existing structure. Take for instance the long period of angst preceding the opening of the Star- dale Solar Farm near St-Eugène. At the official opening of 160-acre In- nergex Renewable Energy solar energy installation, the atmosphere was sunny and bright. Of course, the atmosphere had been negatively charged for the years leading up to the completion of the facil- ity on about 300 acres of farmland. Apart from the loss of arable terrain, some of the concerns expressed by oppo- nents were excessive noise, stray voltage that would shock dairy cattle, and glare from panels that would cause pilots to crash airliners. To date, none of those fears has materi- alized, as far as we know. As East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby noted during the inauguration, prior to


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