You were on that double-decker bus

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The bus/train collision in Ottawa last week was horrendous, but the worst news is that we can expect to see even more of this. Such terrible accidents are commonplace in many places of the world, and that should alert us that these disasters will likely occur more often here, too.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The bus/train collision in Ottawa last week was horrendous, but the worst news is that we can expect to see even more of this. Such terrible accidents are commonplace in many places of the world, and that should alert us that these disasters will likely occur more often here, too.
Why? Not because of the dangers of level rail crossings or because some provinces (other than Quebec) do not require buses to stop at rail crossings, nor because driver fatigue seems to be growing, at least with transport trucks, and not only due to employee layoffs by the railways. The single largest cause of this scale of disaster is the sheer number of people almost everywhere on the planet. This is a question of math, of statistics. The more people there are in the world, the more people will be hurt in disasters. 
Over the long run, a city of 100,000 will have fewer deaths by disaster than a city of a million, and as the world’s cities expand, so too will the size of such calamities. This math works for crime rates, shooting deaths, and highway accidents. It works for the crazy mass shootings we see regularly in the US. Same goes for climate and natural disasters: the more people, the more collateral damage.
It’s called over-population.
As the world steams toward an unsustainable 10 billion population, we had better buckle up and expect more large-scale calamities. No question we will always have accidents, crazies with guns, and natural disasters, but it’s the scale of the losses and damage that will skyrocket.
In the United States, which tracks such numbers, 1.3 million deaths between 1996 and 2006 were due to avoidable incidents, according to Scientific American. 1.3 million far exceeds the number of deaths from terrorism, which is what we hear so much about.
In the Pontiac it’s hard to imagine over-population. Our numbers are declining, no doubt temporarily as the world’s population balloons. Some of this over-population will gravitate to Canada and some will spill into the Pontiac. Even if the anti-immigration nationalists scare off some groups, the pressure of numbers will bring more people to the Pontiac. As a piece of the world, we share in its increasing crowding.
At least two considerations arise. First, this world situation points to a benefit for the Pontiac. We statistically are less likely to be involved in a disaster because we are so spread out. It is good to live in rural areas, away from the crowds of the cities. Good for us.
The second consideration is more subtle, but equally threatening: the more people who are on the earth, the less value human life holds. This is a matter of numbers. It doesn’t matter what we profess to believe – too much of anything lessens its value.
These concerns may appear irrelevant here, but we do play a role in the world’s over-population: some of our churches, for example, have played obstructionist roles in the  United Nations’ attempts to slow world population growth, to treat females equal to males, and to make education available to everyone. These factors manage the world’s population. Our federal government, by cutting development aid and siphoning funds toward radical religious groups that fight birth control and access to abortion, is also encouraging uncontrolled population growth. Some of our own institutions are threatening our future.
The train/bus accident in Ottawa was terrible, but as a signal it’s something we can and should heed.