Monday, October 24, 2011

Saxmaniac for mayor - Free-transit advocate

Saxmaniac for mayor - News1130: ""The whole linchpin of my candidacy is free transit. Transit fees are a tax on the poorest members of society who are doing the most environmentally-friendly activity."

He points out it's already been done in Hasselt, Belgium. "They've had free transit for 15 years. Tourism is up. People have more money to spend on small items like coffees and pizzas and that.""

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Transit riders subsidize the auto, not vice-versa

Mayors who voted for more #transit
Motorists Who Slam Transit Levies Have the Wrong Target: And yet, it's clear that I depend on our roads, highways and bridges far less than the person who commutes everyday in a single occupant vehicle from Abbotsford to Burnaby and back. But when the topic of drivers paying a toll for traversing a bridge or new stretch of highway comes up, invariably they get hopping mad. They forget that every time I take the bus or skytrain, I pay a toll - otherwise known as a "fare."

For example, if I want to go to Surrey from Vancouver - unless it is for a few short minutes before jumping back on the train to Vancouver, lest my 90 minute fare expires - it costs me $10 to go there and back by skytrain! That is, unless I'm really thinking ahead and save one dollar by buying the $9 all-day pass. If we are trying to incentivize public transit use, we're certainly not doing so with money; rather we punish transit users with the heftiest tolls around - and there are no "toll-free" skytrains or bus routes to choose from, unlike our road system.

Plainly put, transit riders have been on an expensive "user-pay" model for decades, while road tolling remains a hated and relatively little-used tool. Not only that, I've been subsidizing road building through my tax dollars far more than motorists have been subsidizing my transit infrastructure. And because these big-buck highway projects have the backing of the Province and feds, we're all paying for them - through provincial and federal tax dollars. They aren't subject to the complaints of local motorists confronted with unwelcome property tax and gas tax hikes because their funding is secured from upon high and, thus, less visible. But make no mistake, I am subsidizing the hell out of blacktop and bridge projects I will use relatively little of.
'via Blog this'

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Majority of Metro Vancouver mayors set to boost gas tax to pay for more transit

Regional mayors (from left to right) Dianne Watts from Surrey, Pam Goldsmith-Jones from West Vancouver, Richard Stewart from Coquitlam, Peter Fassbender from Langley and Gregor Robertson from Vancouver.
Majority of Metro Vancouver mayors set to boost gas tax to pay for more transit: "METRO VANCOUVER - Seven Metro Vancouver mayors, including those in Surrey and Vancouver, will vote in favour of a TransLink plan Friday that calls for a two-cents-a-litre boost in the gas tax to pay for the Evergreen Line and other regional transit projects."

Read more:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ellen Woodsworth » Putting more buses on the streets and providing affordable transit for all:

Ellen Woodsworth Link

  • Advocate for ongoing sustainable investment in transit infrastructure on an annual basis.
  • Call for an immediate increase in the number of buses on Vancouver streets.
  • Demand that TransLink create a fare review process that includes an advisory panel of users groups, community organizations, transit operators and other stakeholders in determining fare rates.
  • Work with TransLink to implement a student U-pass system for all Metro Vancouver post secondary students similar to that currently in place for students at UBC and SFU.
  • Establish an official Free Bus loop that links downtown with the Broadway Corridor between Main St and Burrard St.
  • Demand that the Province amend its legislation to create a TransLink Board that is directly elected by the people of the member municipalities of Metro Vancouver.
  • Oppose the Gateway Plan – a $10 Billion plan which will flood the city with more pollution and more cars counter to the City’s transportation plans and opposed by the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, North Vancouver, and Richmond.
  • Make funding bikeways and cycling a priority in the next Capital Plan.
  • Promote the creation of a public bicycle rental system, initially in the Downtown Business District and Broadway Corridor.
  • Improve bike safety and access by measures such as giving right of way priorities to bikes on bikeways, erecting prominant signs indicating bike routes, and separating cars form bikes on neighbourhood bike routes.
  • Support the expansion of cycling education and awareness programs at schools throughout the city. All children should be offered courses in safe cycling.
  • Provide a system of secure storage, lockers, retail concessions and other cyclist oriented amenities at SkyTrain stations, bus loops and transit hubs.
  • Split one of the six traffic lanes on Burrard Bridge to make room for a bike lane alongside each sidewalk, put in reversible light signals and give three lanes to rush-hour traffic.
  • Work with local communities to create city-wide Car Free Zones and Car Free Days
For background details and to make recommendations please look at Draft Policy

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Killing Our Cities « Price Tags

Killing Our Cities « Price Tags: "In fact, for many people, cars have become less a desirable commodity, and more of a burden. For people who are dependent on their cars, it can become very hard to keep control of the budget when fuel prices are so unpredictable. Many of these people don’t have the option of moving closer to the city. High real estate prices and poor public transport mean the only option is outer suburbs and long, car-bound commutes.

The future for these people isn’t promising. The outer suburbs will become places where only the poor will live. Opponents of development, such as Save our Suburbs, have campaigned against inner-city densification on the grounds it will create ghettos, but the real ghettos are going to be on the urban fringes."

'via Blog this'

Friday, August 12, 2011

No Pipelines, No Tankers, No Tar Sands! | Wilderness Committee

No Pipelines, No Tankers, No Tar Sands! | Wilderness Committee: "A mass civil disobedience action has been called for the end of August in Washington DC to pressure the US government to stop approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline proposed to carry tar sands crude oil from northern Alberta to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and the U.S. Gulf Coast. At the same time, here in the Lower Mainland, we will spotlight and protest the tar sands pipeline in our own backyard -- in North Burnaby.

Organized by the Council of Canadians, Tanker Free BC, Streams of Justice, and the Wilderness Committee."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

B.C. gas-tax foes are blowing hot air - The Globe and Mail

B.C. gas-tax foes are blowing hot air - The Globe and Mail: "No form of transportation is more heavily subsidized than private auto use. Once you buy a car and insure it, the roads, with very few exceptions, are free. Yes it’s true, part of that funding comes from the 15-cents-a-litre tax on gas. But regardless of how much you drive or whether you drive at all, your tax dollars pay for road construction and maintenance, for the signal lights and other infrastructure controlling the flow of traffic, and for the police to enforce the rules. And everyone – not just car drivers – pays for the health care costs associated with auto use."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Deadly lung disease brought to you by Canada

Of course, it’s really what we should’ve expected from Stephen Harper’s government, that profits trump health.  But he wanted to continue to sell asbestos to the rest of the world (while treating it as a dangerous substance in Canada) without having to inform Canada’s customers of the health hazards.  And so he arranged it.

Is your cancer or deadly lung disease made in Canada?  Stephen Harper and the Conservatives don’t care.  That means that, officially, Canada doesn’t care, either.

Another mark against our international reputation, I guess.  I wonder how much of that reputation we have left to trade upon?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Will Canada Benefit From Climate Change? Not too likely.

The idea that certain parts of the world, particularly Canada and Russia, will actually benefit from climate change is one that you will occasionally encounter in the media.  How true is it?

Let's look at some evidence. For instance, the killer heatwave, the wildfires and the crop failures in Russia last year.  Or the 300 year flood in Manitoba this year, accompanied by the 100 year flood in Quebec.  How about the ever-expanding wildfire season which recently took out an entire Alberta town?  Okay, not so good.

Then how about the Arctic?  The melting of the Arctic sea ice has opened up sea lanes that simply never existed before in human experience.  This makes it easier to get around the Arctic and utilize its resources, right?  Not exactly.  Sea lanes may have opened up, but ground travel over northern territories has become increasingly compromised with warming.  Some areas in the far north are not accessible by year round roads--they are simply not feasible--and are accessed by temporary ice.

According to Science Daily, reporting on a new Arctic transportation study: "A major casualty will be temporary ice roads." SD continues, "Constructed across frozen ground, lakes, rivers and swampy areas using compacted snow and ice and applied sheets of ice, these roads currently provide access to vast swaths of inland terrain where the construction of all-weather roads is not economically viable."

And none of the above addresses the biggest problem.  How the heck does Canada profit when the global economy collapses?  

And it will.  A housing bubble in one country almost took the global economy down recently.  A global ecological collapse will destroy the global economy entirely, since entire countries will become economically unviable, some uninhabitable, if we don't do something now, in this decade, about climate change.

Canada may survive climate change with more crop growing land and longer growing seasons.  But the world in which the Canadian economy currently flourishes will be gone, and that is the world upon which our present standard of living is based.  Without it, we'll all be peasant farmers. 

That's hardly good news either.

Friday, May 6, 2011

New BC Government Report Says to Prepare for Sea Level Rise

A new BC government report says that we should prepare for sea level rises of 0.5 metres by 2050, 1.0 metres by 2100 and 2.0 metres by next century—and re-evaluate again in three years to see if these figures hold. They might be worse.

The writers of the report are not worried yet about increasing storm intensities or storm surges on the north coast, but recommend we monitor the situation and see how things evolve.

Just try not to build the dyke (or the town) too low.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stephen Harper Victory Bad News for the Environment

What does Stephen Harper's victory mean for the environment?  Not so good news.  Expect more oil sands development, less environmental oversight and more climate change dodging for four or five years.

If Canadians want to get anything done, they'll have to force Harper's hand or manage change through other means.  The international, the provincial, the local, the organizational and the personal all remain as options for moving forward.

Stephen Harper has a majority government, but he is still vulnerable to international pressures.  Wherever they might come from.  It's conceivable that international pressures will build up in circumstances where the climate continues to hand around climate disaster worldwide--as it now seems prepared to do.

It is also true that in Canada, most of the environment is in the charge of the provinces.  Provinces can set their own priorities on the environment in contradiction of Stephen Harper's business as usual approach.

For those of us who want to save the planet for our children and grandchildren, there's a heck of a lot of work to do and huge challenges.

Just like before.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stephen Harper's plan to fight climate change “the worst possible” - report

Stephen Harper’s plan to fight climate change through a “targeted approach” is the least effective, the most expensive and most difficult to implement of the plans proposed by Canada’s national parties.  The Greens, New Democrats and the Liberals all favour a market-based approach, the cap-and-trade system.  According to a report by Canada’s climate change secretariat, the Conservatives plan, such as it is--and there is no guarantee that they are the least bit serious about it--would be the worst possible solution for the economy and the environment.

This approach requires many initiatives, likely by three different orders of government, with the associated administrative costs.  And because it does not use market forces to find the lowest-cost emissions reduction opportunities, it is inevitably a higher-cost approach than those based on emissions trading. . . . This option likely also provides the least certainty for meeting a target."


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Christy Clark Puts Off Green Initiative—For Further Discussion

They were going to join the Governator in California and others in a carbon-trading scheme, but now they say they need further discussion.  The new government of Christy Clark has already found time to endorse an environmentally dubious (“I can see it from space!) open-pit gold and copper mine in the interior which gave even Stephen Harper pause.

But if it’s green, Arnold, and in British Columbia, then it needs further “fulsome discussion.”

And if we’re still talking about it, then we’re not doing it, right, Premier Christy?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nature turns mean under climate change

Nature's going to be doing a little thinning out in the coming centuries.

Under climate change nature has already become meaner and tougher, more like the "dog eat dog" parodies of social darwinist propaganda.

Climate change is tipping the Ark and some species are falling out.  Other species dependent on those species are preparing to starve.

Scientists have observed this going on for some time now.  Here's a current story in the news.  (Strong salmon hearts may hedge against climate change-CBC.)

Yep, the story says, some species of salmon with special characteristics allowing them to survive climate change will survive.  Others won't.  In the end there will be fewer species of salmon.  That's not really a victory.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A successful BC Earth Hour, voting for an Earth Century

British Columbians turned off the lights for Earth Hour Saturday night, twice as many as did last year.  The benefits to the planet are significant:  the province reduced the provincial electricity load by 1.8 per cent, amounting to 117 megawatt hours of electricity.  More importantly, British Columbians showed an increasing commitment to doing something about climate change and the environment.
Perhaps they will continue their commitment by expanding Earth Hour to the Earth Century.  And on a smaller scale, voting for the planet in the upcoming provincial and federal elections. 

In my book, voting for the planet means voting resoundingly against the federal Conservative Party—the Oil Sands Party—and against the provincial Liberals, who despite a token, gutted carbon tax are overwhelmingly pro-development, anti-environment.

We shouldn’t let Stephen Harper and Christy Crunch, er, Clark, sell out the future of our children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vancouver the Green

Well, there it is, Vancouver gets the nod from the World Wildlife Fund as the keenest, greenest Canadian city.
According to the CBC News article:

The city is working towards a zero waste challenge and has started collecting household food scraps along with yard waste for composting.  City planners have been adding on to the labyrinth of bike lanes around the city and Vancouver is on the forefront of developing green roofs, including the new roof on the Vancouver Convention Centre that is home to a bee hive.

And the story has a transit connection.

According to City Councillor Andrea Reimer, Vancouver's advantage began decades ago when Vancouverites rejected a freeway into downtown—it was supposed to plow through the Strathcona neighbourhood and join up with the Georgia Viaduct at Main Street—which has forced more transit development and created more compact communities.

Vancouver scored 8.1 out of 10 on the World Wildlife Fund scale.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Canadians Think Green, Our Governments Think Business-As-Usual

Canada is falling behind in green job creation evidently.  I failed to notice, I guess, because I didn’t know Canada was in the business of creating green jobs.

They’ve been sniffing oil sand fumes on Parliament Hill for some time, so any green jobs emanating from the Conservative government (sorry, Harper Government) are just the flicker of green amidst the psychedelic of an oil slick.

The federal government’s plan for job creation has us building fancy new playgrounds and closing down schools.

Can’t say what colour those jobs are.

Here in British Columbia, after a handy green bait-and-switch involving a carbon tax—sufficient to unbalance the green lobby and finesse the last election—the provincial Liberals have been continuing on the environmental business-as-usual track. 

So no green jobs there.

80% of Canadians accept that climate change is real and that climate scientists are right.  That means, I would presume, that overwhelmingly Canadians think we should do something about it.

The trouble is that that 20% minority of Canadians who disagree with the scientific consensus seem to make up a majority of our elected officials.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Avoid Monday’s Annual Daylight Savings Traffic Carnage – Take a Bus

Daylight savings time begins tonight, or Sunday 1 a.m. technically. 

Which means that Monday morning we can expect the annual traffic carnage resulting from the entire nation of Canada (except the wise heads in Saskatchewan) driving to work with an hour less sleep.

They are losing sleep south of the border as well, and not just because of Republican science policies.

Be afraid.  Be almost afraid.  Bumper car nation *gasp!* is coming your way.

Avoid the carnage and take a bus.  (Good for the planet, too.)


Read about the dangers of Daylight Savings Time in the New England Journal of Medicine here:  Daylight Savings Time and Traffic Accidents

Monday, March 7, 2011

Faint Hope with Antarctic Melting

A new study suggests that West Antarctic ice may be more stable than previously believed since scientists have uncovered evidence that parts of the ice sheet survived the last interglacial warming period some 125 thousand years ago.  The results of the new study don’t appear to accord well with other studies, however, which show a sea level rise consistent with a melting West Antarctic ice sheet during the last interglacial.  What the true interpretation is will have to be determined by future studies. 

David Sugden at the University of Edinburgh who headed the new study says that melting around the edges of the ice sheet is likely to occur regardless of whether the central parts can survive global warming.  The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, plus the melting in Greenland, is already on course to double the sea rise predictions made by the IPCC in 2007.

Best to trade your sea side cottage for one further inland.  And those folks living just south of me on the Fraser delta might want to raise their dykes and levees up two or three metres….


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The open pit mine & the mind of the new premier: ominous signs for the environment in British Columbia

Christy Clark, the newly elected leader of the provincial Liberals, says she wants to revive the Prosperity gold-copper mine project near Williams Lake.
    The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency already held sixty days of hearings about an earlier version of the mine, and rejected it resoundingly.
    Tsilhqot'in Tribal Chair, Chief Joe Alphonse said, "The panel's report was the most damning the CEAA has ever released against a proposal.  It highlighted in detail the extensive violation of First Nations rights that would occur and the devastating impact that this lake- and ecosystem-killing open-pit mine would cause with its massive 35 square kilometre, footprint on a pristine wilderness area."
    It has been merely two days since she was selected to be premier of the province.  If reviving an open-pit mine proposal is an example of what Christy Clark’s leadership is going to look like in respect of the environment, then the environment is in deep trouble in British Columbia.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Why should we have free public transit

Why should we have free public transit, it's been said all before by The Tyee:

Fare-free transit brings many benefits, some of which include:
  1. a barrier-free transportation option to every member of the community (no more worries about exact change, expiring transfers, or embarrassment about how to pay)
  2. eliminating a "toll" from a mode of transportation that we as a society want to be used (transit is often the only way of getting around that charges a toll)
  3. reducing the inequity between the subsidies given to private motorized vehicle users and public transport users
  4. reducing, and in some cases eliminating, the need for private motorized vehicle parking
  5. reducing greenhouse gas emissions, other air pollutants, noise pollution (especially with electric trolleys), and run-off of toxic chemicals into fresh water supplies and ocean environments
  6. reducing overall consumption of oil and gasoline
  7. eliminating the perceived need to spend billions on roads and highways (now up to $7 billion for the proposed Gateway Project in Vancouver)
  8. eliminating the perceived need to spend billions on bigger car-carrying ferries ($2.5 billion for BC Ferries' new super-sized boats and ramps)
  9. contributing significantly to the local economy by keeping our money in our communities
  10. reducing litter (in Vancouver, the newer transfers/receipts have overtaken fast food packaging for most common garbage found on our streets)
  11. saving trees by eliminating the need to print transfers and tickets
  12. allowing all bus doors to be used to load passengers, making service faster and more efficient
  13. allowing operators (drivers) to focus on driving safely
  14. giving operators more time to answer questions
  15. providing operators a safer work environment since fare disputes are eliminated
  16. eliminating fare evasion and the criminalization of transit-using citizens
  17. fostering more public pride in shared, community resources

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Trees killed by climate change may turn green again with energy project

The University of British Columbia has recently launched a green energy project which will convert dead trees into energy without burning them.  It will use trees destroyed by pine beetles, which otherwise might become net emitters of greenhouse gases through decomposition, or if they were actually burned. 

The pine beetle infestation which killed these trees is itself a symptom of climate change.  The pine beetles have been thriving in British Columbia for decades, destroying entire Pine forests, because winters no longer get cold enough in the province to kill them.

The new project, which is pioneering the technology on the UBC campus, will produce enough energy to power 1500 homes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Traffic, housing & poverty in “the world’s most liveable city.”

Underneath the splendid north shore mountains, between Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River delta, Vancouver is rich in nature’s eye-candy.  It also has, as cities go, a low crime rate even amidst what looks like an on-going gang war.  Maybe other cities have bigger gangs, or the amateurs get involved more.  I don’t know.  Property crime rates are fairly high in Vancouver for a Canadian city, as I understand.

But the biggest property crime, in this the most “liveable” of all the world’s cities, is what they charge for rent here.  What will rent you an ordinary one bedroom ground floor suite in Vancouver will rent you a whole house on Canada’s other coast.  There is really no surprise that you see so many people living on the street in those odd corners of Vancouver where respectable people don’t like to look.  The kind of accommodation that the very poorest people can afford simply does not exist either within city boundaries or outside of them.

Of course, I’m talking for the poor here, and that might be out of line.  So let’s talk about the traffic. 

Downtown Vancouver achieves traffic saturation sometime around 7 a.m. every morning on weekdays, and doesn’t emerge from it until about 7 p.m.  That’s the dirty little secret that organizations like the Economic Intelligence Unit seem to miss when they rate Vancouver as the world’s most liveable city.  (See Australia and Canada dominate "most liveable cities" list)  Other organizations who put out similar lists have removed Vancouver from the top of the list expressly because of the chronic traffic gridlock.  Oh, and some don’t like the homelessness, the exorbitant rents and the poverty culture, either.

It would be easy to solve the traffic problem, at least.  All we need to do for a start is charge more for parking, and—which I understand has worked effectively in other cities—continue with a policy of limiting the absolute number of parking spaces available downtown. 

City council, as well as raising public parking rates, could begin with a levy of so much a month on all commercially available parking—residential parking and special needs parking being exempt.  This would discourage many, if not the wealthiest or the most car-addicted commuters, from driving downtown.  And the extra revenue collected by the city, and the reduction in money spent on road repairs, for instance, resulting from reduced traffic, could be dedicated to reducing or removing transit fares and improving transit services.  Public transit would thus get a boost in usage which would make it even more cost effective in the short and long term.

Vancouver’s traffic problem would be eased, there’d be fewer commuters sending CO2 into the atmosphere, and the planet will be sending us an air kiss and a hug.

Then, once we tackle the housing and homelessness situation, too, we can start talking liveable.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Climate change, and an early spring

The sneezes have been coming for a week.  Not so bad for me, because I’m mildly but not extremely allergic.  But all the pollen sufferers in Vancouver have probably started pulling out their handkerchiefs, with the germ-phobic (pointlessly) edging away from them on the buses. 

We are sufficiently north here to feel climate change a little stronger than down south, which means that winter is starting more and more to resemble fall and spring here.  That sometimes fools the vegetation into coming alive a little early.  Hence, the allergies and the sneezing.

Of course, we’re here in the city so it doesn’t really matter, but an early spring is not so harmless in the countryside.  The countryside is ecological.  Things depend on each other.  Things interact.  And interactions require not only geographic proximity but timing as well. 

An early spring messes up timing because not all parts of the environment are reacting to the same signals.  The flowers have reported to work but the bees are still on vacation.  By the time the bees show up the flowers and all their pollen have blown away in a spring breeze.  Plants don’t get pollinated and fruit doesn’t grow.

In which case it doesn’t matter at all if there’s a longer growing season.

While the climate is changing and readjusting—which it will continue to do while our civilization continues to toss carbon into the atmosphere—we can expect more of these mixed signals in nature, and we can expect the ecology to suffer because of it.  And when the ecology suffers, our human economies suffer as well.

The climate won’t stop adjusting until we stop messing with it.  And while it’s adjusting we can expect a lot of systems to be out of kilter, not working the way we want or expect them to. 

From now on, if we don’t make some necessary changes in our lifestyles, our carbon output, our forestry practices, and our relationship with the environment, if we don’t do things as simple as climbing out of our cars and into buses, then we’re going to spend a lot of time as a civilization dealing with systems that have gone out of kilter.

We won’t like it.

So climate change, it’s more than just sneezing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Climate science & the imaginary culture wars

Climate is a polarized issue, and when you think about it, you wonder why that should be.  Since when did scientific specialties become our cultural flavour of the week?  Lady Gaga is up.  Climate science is down.  Elephants are trending hot again, but marathon swimming polar bears are fading fast.

Why should this be?  The answer is clear when you think of it as another culture war.

Climate science is not cultural, of course.  It’s physics, measurements, predictions based on the evidence. 

But our collective response to climate change may have to be cultural in many ways.

There’s the rub.

Climate change means cultural change because it means doing things differently from the way we have been doing things up to now.  A world where our affect on tomorrow becomes as real to us as our affect on today, that’s a different world from the world we are living in.  We as a civilization are going to have to change, to adapt ourselves to a climate and to circumstances which our civilization has never had to face before.  That’s obvious.

And some people are afraid of those changes.  Their fear of change makes them demonize the scientific messengers, the climatologists who keep on telling them that things have to change.  Their fear makes them identify these sober people in lab coats with hippies and communists and tree-hugging grandmothers and all the other cultural bogies they have been taught to deride and fear. 

The fear of change transforms what is after all a merely scientific message into some kind of paranoid cultural propaganda.  The consequences that they see in the message have become confused in their minds with the message itself.

Thus scientific truth—a truth that we really must start paying attention to seriously—becomes a casualty of a fear of change and of an imaginary culture war.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Car Free Vancouver Day

Car Free Vancouver Day: "Now is your chance to get involved, get creative, meet some awesome folks, and help co-create the city of your dreams. If you love Car Free Day, please consider stepping up to take a creative leadership role in this amazing event."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flood of the Century? Soon we’ll need another name for it

Late last September in the Bella Coola Valley, a little further up the coast from where I live, they had a major flood.  It was in fact referred to as the “flood of the century.”  Perhaps you’ve heard that phrase before and recently, maybe in other contexts, in other places. 

In the Amazon rainforest they are talking about two “drought of the century” events in the same decade.  But that’s droughts.  Let’s just stick to floods here.

Now when the Bella Coola flood happened, I admit I immediately thought of climate change.  It fits the symptoms. 

Warm air holds more moisture, 7% more with a 1o C. rise in temperature—which is a rise close to what the planet is experiencing now.  And more moisture in the air results in more moisture falling out of the air.  So scientists have been predicting that places with lots of rainfall can expect even more.

That’s us in British Columbia, the raincoast.  And more rain fell in September in Bella Coola than had fallen in living memory.

Climate change, I whispered, because I couldn’t really be sure. 

Well, now a scientific study of floods in England, while not confirming that my reasoning about Bella Coola was and is correct—that would require a careful scientific study of its own—does at least show that climate change can be connected to such events.

See a report on the English study here:

Of course, if what is happening in Australia, Europe and the Amazon is any indication, soon we are not going to have to worry about classifying any particular climate event as caused by global warming or not.  We could just count the number of “event of the century” occurrences that happen in a given century, deduct one as representing natural variation, and, relying on odds alone, all the rest we can blame on climate change.

Scientifically, understand, such a method is hogwash.  Mathematically, however, it is still more likely to produce a right answer than a wrong.

Because, as James Hansen of NASA has said, the climate dice are loaded. 

After awhile we will not need the scientists to tell us that something is desperately wrong with the climate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dana Larsen pledges to eliminate Skytrain fares

BC NDP Leadership Candidate Dana Larsen today [31-Jan-2011]  pledged to eliminate fares for using Skytrain if elected Premier. The proposal would bring funding of the regional Skytrain system into line with the those of local highways, through the provincial highways ministry.

"As Premier, I would designate the Skytrain as part of BC's Highway system," said Larsen, "and then get rid of fares for users. We don't charge a tariff to use the road, and we shouldn't charge a tariff to use the Skytrain."

“BC spends hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing a free road system for car drivers," continued Larsen, "meanwhile Skytrain has a fare. The average lower-mainland resident must travel through two cities to get to work. Why should we selectively subsidize car travel, but not Skytrain?”

Larsen received support for his call from Dave Olsen, an urban planner and researcher who has written extensively about the benefits of eliminating fares from public transit (

"Transit systems from as far away as Belgium and as close as Washington State have eliminated transit fares and save their taxpayers millions of dollars every year" said Olsen.  "For me, there is no doubt about extreme weather changes being caused by greenhouse gas emissions.  If our children and future generations are to have a chance at survival, we need to move towards sustainable transportation systems now, not later.  Let's use the transit infrastructure we have more efficiently and encourage people to get out of their SOV.  I am truly heartened to see a politician finally standing up for common sense on transit."

When asked about the cost of fare-free Skytrain, Larsen explained that the proposal is designed to be revenue neutral.

"We're not talking about increasing taxes, instead I would refocus our Provincial funding away from subsidizing car drivers, and move to a sustainable system of publicly funded Skytrain." said Larsen. “Going forward, we need to expand rapid-rail projects like Skytrain into the Fraser Valley, and also into the other larger centres around the province. The future of our cities is in rail.”

For more information:

Dana Larsen: 604-812-4372

Dave Olsen: 604-216-6700

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Vancouver climate

Situated as we are at the mouth of the Fraser Valley, right next to the Georgia Strait, Vancouver has its own little climate system.  Mornings and during the day, there is usually a wind blowing off the water, not too hard, but steady.  This wind continues eastward up the valley, bringing with it all the pollution this car-clogged city produces during the day.

This situation means that it is in fact the towns up the valley, Chilliwack, Matsqui, Mission, and all the others, who breathe the worst of Vancouver’s pollution from morning to late afternoon.  Of course, with nightfall the wind reverses, bringing much of that pollution back to us.

The situation with climate change is a little like that.  We may not feel it right away.  In fact it’s people up the valley, people over there, people who aren’t born yet who will bear the brunt of what we do.  But that doesn’t mean none of it will come back to us too.  That doesn’t mean it won’t affect us, or that it hasn’t already started affecting us whether we taste it in the air or not.

But we don’t really need to breathe our own stink, or inflict it on others up the valley.  We can find a way of climbing out of our cars, and eating fewer fast food burgers.  A little exercise will make us happier anyway, and the burgers aren’t good for our waistlines. 

We can find a way of creating sustainable cities and of living sustainable lifestyles with dignity.  We’re capable of being very creative and resourceful when there’s a big job to do which affects us all.

First we imagine it.  Then we get it done.  (Maybe a little effort in between.)

Proposed bylaw to target old diesels, black carbon

The idea of the proposed new bylaw is to target “black carbon” emitted by non-road engines. 

The Tyee – No Fares! A Reader-funded Solutions Series

The Tyee – No Fares! A Reader-funded Solutions Series: "Olsen says it will take an engaged citizenry to help officials take seriously the potential benefits of fare-free transit. When he raised the idea with transit bureaucrats in B.C., Olsen says, 'They couldn't even get their heads around it. Didn't even want to talk about it.' But when he floated the same idea with bus drivers and riders, the response tended to be open and even enthusiastic.

Olsen says the time is ripe for that discussion to take off. Making public transit free for everyone to ride 'is no longer only a social justice issue, an equity issue, or an efficiency issue,' Olsen says. 'Now it's a survival issue.'"