Climate change: When we ride alone we ride with dinosaurs

(I’d hope Bill Maher wouldn’t take issue with my headline)

A day before this morning’s climate change report – “warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” the cause “very likely” man-made, and the degradation will “continue for centuries” – the Globe & Mail carried a report which seems designed to convince Canadians that we are not walking the walk, despite polls showing our concern.

This, frankly, only “gives aid and comfort” to Harpocrites who are polling right now with specific questions about Environment Minister John Baird’s drawn-out plans.

I’m guessing it is the Cons’ pollsters who called a neighbour last evening and unleashed an over-the-phone science exam. So long, apparently, were the multiple choice questions and answers that it seemed designed only to confuse. Yet there was no mistaking the fact that John Baird’s name was the only one mentioned throughout, except for the “If an election were held today…” question. My neighour assured me that he snapped to attention and backed the NDP.

Back to yesterday’s Globe

According to the Maritz New Vehicle Customer Study most Canadians are as late getting to some solutions to the climate change crisis as the Conservatives and Liberals were.

Put another way, as did the Globe & Mail Thursday, “Drivers steer clear of green concerns – Study shows buying an environmentally friendly vehicle ranked just 23rd among 26 reasons for purchase

Environmental protection lagged well behind value for money, fuel economy and reliability — the top three reasons for buying a certain vehicle — and was also less of an issue to those surveyed than towing capability and interior styling! Even subcompact car buyers were more interested in storage and cargo space than environmental considerations.

Okay, here comes a rant!

While I recognize that there are still all kinds of energy efficiencies and environmental protection measures to be improved here in my cash-strapped housing co-op the almighty automobile is the most irritating, visible offender against the environment in urban neigbourhoods.

I live just slightly to the west of the half-way point between the Don Valley Parkway and Jarvis Street, two busy, multi-lane, north-south traffic thoroughfares here in the city that even I often love to hate. I take fewer opportunities to stand beside the DVP than I do to observe traffic on the Jarvis Street-Mount Pleasant Road strip.

The Maritz Report is right! When I am not yelling at drivers for the way two and three vehicles justify rushing through red lights (I’m the pedestrian you’ll occasionally hear shouting, “What colour is that light?!?” or “Get off that phone!!!) I am seeing huge, fuel-sucking cars and SUVs – and those combinations of the two which defy description – with, more often than not, just the driver inside clogging downtown streets. Aaaaaaarrrrggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

If Canadians – Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and others – are as concerned about the climate change crisis as the media is finally telling us that we are then let’s start unclogging the streets with single-passenger (the driver) automobiles. My frustrations with the abuse of passenger vehicles are not limited to the high-density areas of our large urban centres. When our cities long ago began rippling outward, with lower and lower density housing to the point of eating up arable farm land with shopping malls, parking lots, and the all-important single family home on disproportionately large lots, we made the car a necessity and mass transit less so. This, of course, was an effect of the post-World War II baby boom – the shadows, but not the end, of which were upon us when I came into the world.

This urban sprawl is continuing unabated in small towns with, like cities before them, their completely unimaginative Official Plans. Keep the buildings low and spread out. Pave roads and install urban services into the new subdivisions being cut out of family farms – sold to try to recoup a bit of cash after years of work without coherent government agricultural policies. Build shopping malls and parking lots. Meanwhile the town infrastructure, from the main street’s pavement to century-old watermains, is crumbling.

I wonder what it is going to take – certainly 18 month to five year terms of elected political office won’t do it – to save us from ourselves? As I have observed before this planet’s immune system has AIDS. Like the human manifestation, it requires fast remedial action.

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