Monday, June 21, 2010

Vancouver Island University moves forward

I am pleased to see that the local university is working at improving the bus access to its Nanaimo campus, increasing the number of buses that can be there at any one time as well as the speed at which the buses can get on and off campus.

As 70% of our local greenhouse gases (and, likely, pollution) come from the transportation sector these kinds of improvements make a real difference. One of many they have made in the last five years.

Also of note is the fact they have discovered the abandoned and water-filled coal mines situated under their Nanaimo campus contain a great deal of water warmed by the core of the earth, a large source of heating for their buildings! Such will go a long way to reducing their energy costs, not to mention pollution and greenhouse gases. Congratulations to them!

You can read the whole article at the Nanaimo News Bulletin on-line.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Being weird

I'm weird.

No, I don't mean socially isolated, inept, strange, or even curious. I'm "weird" because I don't own a car.

According to "normal" I don't have much of an identity without one. I'm backward, too poor, too young, or simply not "with it." Many people have difficulty knowing what to say to me other than some niceties such as "good for the environment, eh?" People who care about me worry about my safety. That's okay, I worry about their health, since those who mostly get around by car are usually in poor physical condition, are more likely to suffer from depression, illness, a much higher risk of disease (heart, lungs, and pretty well everything else) and more.

Not owning a car also means having a lot more money in my jeans. I save thousands every year, about the equivalent of a half-time job at minimum wage (after taxes).

In order to qualify to be "weird" one has to rearrange one's life so as to live near work (as about half of us already do), perhaps have groceries delivered, arrange rides, take transit (I use the time "wasted" reading, meditating, visiting, etc.), and use the car (time-) share co-op.

With about 70% of the greenhouse gases coming from transportation (the majority of this from single occupancy vehicles) the "convenience" of the car is not only killing us and our pocketbooks, it is killing the planet. Everyone loses in the end.

Since I spend more time with people, get more exercise and fresh air, and my life is slower and more meaningful, the quality of my life is immeasurably better.

So, go ahead, call me "weird." My friends still love me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Solutions to greenhouse gases

This last week the provincial government released its semi-annual Community energy and Emissions inventory (CEEI). The mid-island area has some challenges ahead!

While Nanaimo and area are doing better than the province as a whole, this isn't difficult considering that the population density of most of the province is very low. When we instead compare ourselves to similarly-sized cities such as Victoria proper (population 81,000), Saanich (pop 112,000), Kamloops (pop 93,000, and Chilliwack (pop 81,000) to that of Nanaimo's (pop 81,000) our per-capita output was the worst.

Fully 70% of these emissions come from motor vehicles. While we often excuse ourselves because of the stretched-out city and poor public transportation, the reality is that fully half of us commute fewer than 5 kilometres (3 miles) by car or light truck! While some of us need our vehicles at work, the vast majority have made such things as time, convenience, and laziness our priorities.

What is of particular interest to me is that the cost of operating these vehicles (over $10,000 per year) results in people screaming about their taxes, failing to invest in energy savings in their homes, buying local food, and other activities that make our planet and pocketbooks more sustainable.

What will it take to make the necessary changes? Some ideas being tried include: charging vehicle insurance per KM, road taxes based on usage, much higher fuel taxes, closure of downtowns to motor vehicles, far more committed bicycle lanes (separated from vehicles and pedestrians), the Car Share Coop (two vehicles in Nanaimo), and vastly improved public transportation.

Without acting now we will continue to see our current problems multiply. Shifting away from single occupancy vehicle use will create rewards of all kinds -better physical and emotional health, improved finances, better air quality, improved work and school performance, and a planet worth inheriting.