Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

How do you make people in Hope healthier?

with one comment

Hope BC aerial

The story comes from Jesse Johnson at the CBC.

Residents have higher rates of chronic disease, are more to likely smoke and their life expectancy is well below the rest of the region.

…lack of access to health services and an aging population both contribute to the problem.

We’re  looking at a population that has moved from the urban areas to the more rural area of Hope in their retirement age to support a lifestyle they are seeking, in terms of outdoor activities.

The article goes on to discuss initiatives the Health Authority is taking to improve access health care services.

But the best thing we can do for the people of Hope – and the rest of the Fraser Valley – is not treatment but prevention. Prevention is always better than cure.

There is currently an air quality advisory in the region due to the fire at Harrison Lake. Not just the smoke but the haze – seen as a white mist over mountains – due to ground level ozone which forms in sunlight due to reactions between pollutants from burned fuels  – VOCs, NOx and SOx. Absent wildfires, these pollutants here are mainly due to the use of fossil fuel fired internal combustion engines in our transportation system. For many years we relied on AirCare to keep that in check, but now we rely on the computers that control our engines. But that is just a bandaid – what we really need to do is reduce the use of cars for most of our transport needs. We aren’t doing badly – in the city of Vancouver half the trips now are taken by noncar modes – walking, cycling and transit. The rest of of the region has been encouraged to increase car use, by widening the freeway and spending heavily on making car use the most favoured mode. Strangling resources for transit was a deliberate provincial policy which, we must now trust, will be reversed.

The air pollutants released by internal combustion engines in Metro Vancouver get blown up the valley by the prevailing winds. As the valley narrows, and the sides get steeper, the concentrations get worse. Air quality concerns are actually fairly low in Vancouver, but are significant in Hope. Telling people to limit their activities and stay indoors helps relieve immediate symptoms – difficulty breathing – but makes other serious health problems worse – heart disease, diabetes, and obesity – the top three killers in our society.  The people who really suffer from bad air quality in the Valley are the agricultural workers who have no choice about strenuous activity outdoors on hot, sunny days.

The more we can be successful in increasing transit mode share, plus walking and cycling, the better the health outcomes will be, and the lower the demands for treatment. The cost benefit analysis for this kind of policy approach seems to  be absent. Our obsessions have been with environmental assessments of major projects, but these have often been deliberately slanted to “reducing congestion” – which is a chimera.

“Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity” – Lewis Mumford. (source)

Written by Stephen Rees

July 6, 2017 at 8:20 pm

One Response

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  1. In the late 80s I first noticed, during regular, early morning heli-flights from Pitt Meadows, the thin arc of chemosynthetic pollutants further up the Valley, contrasted by the rising sun. The pilot said it was the harbinger of “sick valley disease” hitherto more infamous in places like Los Angeles. Air pollutants generated mostly at the west end of the Valley get pushed eastward, co-mingling and reacting to sunlight—when it happens in rainy BC—to produce daughter chemicals like low-altitude ozone (which, among other things, negatively corrodes field-crop foliage, causing millions of dollars of lost productivity). Hope at the east end often gets the worst of it.

    Like chemo-physical dynamics in deep, east-west-oriented coastal valleys, humans go where they go to have the good things in life, and ‘precipitate’ out in those places. But, just as “life’s too short,” the industries and policies mustered to profit in any way by supplying the means to have these good things are always in such a hurry for politico-capitalization reasons, things can get way out of whack. Thus, even though the end of the Baby Boom generation(s) and the negative impacts of its seemingly insatiable demand for stuff and convenience is coming well into view, certain policies that could and should be implemented to ameliorate the downside of Boomer demands have been trumped by profit motive and starved of their only real source of targeted funding: public spending by elected governments. “Out-of-whackness” results in all sorts of perverse situations which, equally perversely, helps us ignore what ultimately cannot be ignored: the relationship between nature and society.

    Ignorance in this broadest sense, the kind virtually all of us are much too blithe about, helps both profitable consumerism and quasi-politic neglect of public measures that could protect the ineluctable bond between nature and society.

    Access to living and working places has gotten severely out of whack with hot properties like Vancouver and Victoria increasing in value at nosebleed speed. The calculus of commuting from lower-cost regions to work in higher-cost ones has largely been innovative in terms of private individuals making choices about
    modes of transport, some of which may be entered on the ‘environmentally-good’ side of a ledger—like bikes and more efficient cars or busses—but these have been mostly tolerable to profiting sectors, representing opportunities in making and fuelling such. And they need roads, so public expense is accorded to it. The perversity of Hope’s pollution is that those who avail the steep property-value gradient
    between it and Vancouver, to cash in on the latter and enjoy a more affordable lifestyle in the former, end up getting bombarded with extra pollution created by expanded automobile convenience directed toward the very place these refugees are trying to escape. You just can’t win, it seems. At least not with rubber-tired petro-dinosaur vehicles and roads.

    Too bad the money one might save by quitting his or her car for public transit doesn’t go nearly far enough to buying a home or business closer in to the action.

    I suspect a more comprehensive look at what’s happening in Hope would discover a substantial non-respiratorial component, that is, in ground and water pollution resulting from ‘sick valley disease’ that eventually impacts on what locals eat and drink. Such dramatic health stats usually indicate deeper and more problematic out-of-whackness. Can’t safely ignore that public mass transit expense is probably needed, but we know the profiteering sector would like to, even though many profitable opportunities exist in making a beneficial change in lifestyle, convenience and expectation.

    Scotty on Denman

    July 7, 2017 at 9:03 am


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