On the evening of August 16th, I attended a “town hall” session held by the Canadian federal government with our MP Darren Fisher as host.
Many people shared good thoughts on steps that must be taken to mitigate the real effects of climate change, and to avoid the worst devastating effects of climate change.
Climate change deniers certainly still exist. But this is similar to people who still deny that cigarette smoking is dangerous. I am just old enough to have seen through the late 70’s and 80’s how scientific evidence began showing the undeniable link between smoking and health problems, and how the tobacco industry did its best to sow FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Presently, many large GHG emitting industries, especially the oil and gas industries, are still trying to sow FUD in order to prop up their own selfish monetary desires.
What is encouraging is that there is a strong and undeniable desire with residents to take action on climate change and environmental sustainability. But, any single resident is limited in the extent of what can he or she can do.
We need our three government levels to both cooperate on plans to lessen our environmental footprints, as well as to find unique and individual methods within each government level’s mandate to support the transition to sustainability.
We need to enable our residents and business leaders to make environmentally sustainable choices by helping make options accessible and affordable.
So, let’s focus on what can be done to reduce our environmental footprint in our communities – the REAL and POSSIBLE steps we can take to accelerate our movement towards an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
Buildings – Homes, businesses, industry, and government buildings
It is VERY possible to accelerate our adoption of sustainable technologies in order to drastically reduce the environmental footprint of our buildings. By the end of my lifetime, I would like to see us significantly on the way to 100% sustainability. This is NOT a naive and unattainable ideal. This is a real possibility, and we in Dartmouth and the HRM at large are well poised to make this transition.
Burnside & Woodside Industrial Parks
My present business allows me to make connections with many other local businesses in Burnside for supplies. As well, my former work in the seafood industry and temporary work upon return to Canada with an oil drilling company allowed me to interact with several manufacturing and design facilities in Burnside and Woodside.
I have seen our former politicians chase, court and woo Exxon Mobile who then stated “We are in it for the long term! We are in it for the community!” But a few months later, Exxon packed up and left many workers and businesses in Burnside and Woodside high and dry. Chasing the oil industry for “jobs” is NOT a sustainable vision – neither environmentally nor economically!
We must ask ourselves, do we want to allow other countries and other cities around the world become the leaders in the adoption of environmentally sustainable technologies??
Or will we recognize the capabilities of our local businesses and work force, and encourage the adoption of sustainable technologies so as to improve our local economy and enter the global race to become leaders in this field??
Choosing to do our best to accelerate the adoption of sustainable technology through updated 21st century building codes will have many benefits – both economic and environmental.
We need leaders with the vision to recognize the present possibilities, and the courage and creativity to find ways to implement plans for greater environmental sustainability and positive sustainable economic development.
Modes of Transit
I am one quarter Finish. Although I have never had the chance to visit Finland, I was told by my mother who did visit Finland that, for example, one of our elderly relatives and many other Finns would bicycle to work every day on dedicated paths separate from automobile roads. Finland, like Canada, is also a northern and cold country! But people use active transportation year-round.
I lived in Japan for 5 years. My father-in-law, until he retired, bicycled to the train station every day to commute to work. It was common to see elderly grandmothers and grandfathers driving their bicycles to and fro. Many people would have 2 bicycles, one to use from home to their nearby train station, and another parked at their destination station to finish their commute to work. I was amazed at the Japanese technique of riding a bike with an umbrella in one hand! From young school children, to university students, to workers and the elderly – Japan has an abundance of bicycle riders!
Our community, in comparison, sees very little active transportation even in the non-snowy months. We cannot change this by asking bicyclists, skateboarders, and roller bladers to share the roads with multi-tonne vehicles that could kill or maim them in an instant. We need to provide safe areas for multi-modal transit to truly encourage greater adoption of environmentally friendly transit.
We need leaders with the vision to seek out examples of “best practices” from other areas in the world, and leaders with the courage and vision to implement plans to make certain new neighbourhoods are built with multi-modal active transport infrastructure, and implement plans to retrofit our present neighbourhoods to include SAFE infrastructure for active transport.
It was stressed at the Climate Change “Town Hall” session that public transit must be reliable, comfortable, and affordable if it is going to have higher adoption rates.
I have lived in and visited cities with robust train, subway, street-car and bus systems. Rail modes tend to accelerate and decelerate more slowly than buses. This equals added comfort. Rail modes tend to run on schedule better than roadway modes. This equals greater reliability. Getting a critical mass of ridership will help mitigate costs. This means greater affordability.
We must remember that NO MODE OF TRANSIT IS FREE!! The budget for building and maintaining automobile roadways is a hugely significant portion of any municipal budget.
When people say: “No no no!! Too costly!!” when discussing rail as a possible transit mode, it never seems to enter the discussion about comparative costs to enable our automotive transport sector to freely and daily use our roadways. In the 21st century, I think it is a fallacy to call any city “modern” or “up to date” if it does not have a significant rail component for public transit.
Regarding buses, I was glad to see the fairly recent call for public input to try to improve our HRM bus service. We still have far to go to make the service more reliable and comfortable. I used to ride the bus daily to work, and developed some good friendships with regular bus route drivers. I asked a lot about working conditions. There are certain issues I was told about.
- Bus routes often had no scheduled lunch or bathroom breaks, and bus drivers were not “allowed” to eat or drink in the bus. For an 8 or 10 hour shift, this is troublesome to say the least. This is why you would sometimes see a bus stopped in front of Tim Horton’s while the bus driver ran in to use the washroom and get some sustenance in food or drink. This is why you would sometimes see bus drivers eating and drinking while driving.
- Bus drivers were encouraged to keep up the schedule, rather than to focus on SAFETY FIRST!! This would often lead to “jack rabbit” starts and stops, and render the bus ride terribly uncomfortable.
- Bus routes were such that many routes would overlap each other for long stretches, often with buses nearly empty of passengers. This increases costs due to lack of efficiency.
The above are only a few of the issues that I have discussed with bus drivers and passengers alike. Buses are indeed necessary as part of a robust public transit system, but we must refresh our bus transit system with the following priorities front and centre:
- SAFETY FIRST!!
As City Councillor, I pledge to the residents of Dartmouth and the HRM to do my utmost to seek out and implement methods for developing a truly environmentally and economically sustainable city.