Author Archives

Andrew Roman

There is so much misinformation, narrowly biased coverage and raw emotion online that concern me about our society's ability to think critically about the important issues of the day. I want to provoke a deeper level of thought by offering an explanation of issues as I see them. You may agree or disagree, but hopefully you will at least think about the issues.

I am a retired litigation lawyer with over 40 years of experience in environmental, electricity, competition, and constitutional issues. I have appeared at all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada, and in every province of Canada. I have been invited as a guest lecturer at almost all of the law schools in this country. I am also the author of over 100 legal articles and a law book, and have been an adjunct faculty member at four Canadian law schools.

The Last Straw and the Pipeline

Governments have often made decisions based on impulse rather than reason. A classic example is the fallacy of “the last straw” – the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similar impulsive decisions are now being made in the assessment of a pipeline’s effects. Let’s think about that.

If a camel’s back can hold, let’s say, 1000 straws, and if one more straw will break its back, it is illogical to believe that it was only the last straw that broke its back. Each of the 1001 straws has weight. All of them together create load on the camel’s back. The first straw is no better than the last straw. They are all load. If you don’t believe me, just ask the camel!


If you remove one or more of the 1000 loaded straws, then adding that proverbial “last straw” will be harmless. The false assumption is that all of the old load is okay, but new load is not. This leads us to the wrong decision: to ban new load while preserving old load. The right question is not “Which load is good load?” but rather, “How should Canada decide who is allowed to add straws onto the camel’s back (up to the maximum load)?” The task is to allocate space rationally on the limited capacity of the camel’s back.

Canada is facing two pipeline-related issues similar to the camel’s back. The first of these is CO2 emissions, the second, underwater noise caused by increased tanker traffic.

Continue reading “The Last Straw and the Pipeline”