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

Archive for September 2019

Climate strikers “naive and unrealistic”

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Climate strikers gathering at Cambie and 10th

No, they are not. They are also on to you. They know what “gaslighting” means.

The headline comes from a Canadian Press story that was published by the National Observer – and others.

“The strikes themselves are not offering any answers. The strikes are not addressing the question of how we reduce carbon demand.”

Actually if Hal Kvisle was paying attention and not indulging in the usual shenanigans, he would be surprised by how well informed some of these young people are. For the last thirty years or so the fossil fuel industry has been spinning the story that not only was there reasonable doubt about climate change and its cause (when there was none) but also that it was essential to expand production in order to meet both rising demand and build the hardware for the eventual transition. This lost us a great opportunity to get ahead of the game. In the same period not only were greenhouse gas emissions expanding exponentially, but the earth’s ability to absorb that carbon was being exhausted. Some oil companies not only knew that to be true but also started down the path of getting ahead of the competition. BP even tried to convince its customers that the letters now stood for “Beyond Petroleum”. Not that that lasted long.

We have always known that we were being profligate and wasteful with energy, and there were already moves under way to cut that waste – especially in the public sector. BC faced a bit of a challenge since nearly all of our electricity came from existing hydro – which meant its cost to consumers was low, and the ghg emissions had already largely occurred during the construction phase. But even so, people knew about air pollution, and wanted something done about that including closing the last gas fired power station. We also knew that building complete communities in a compact urban region with increased transportation choice was key to better air quality and overall well being – we called it “liveability” back then.

In BC the revenues from oil and gas extraction fell precipitously even as production accelerated. The BC Liberals poured money into the sector by cutting taxes and royalties. In Canada, the extraction of the tar sands was only feasible because it was supported by federal and provincial subsidies, again started by the Liberal government. There is also a direct line between politicians supporting oil and gas and contributions from fossil fuel corporations to party funds for elections and propaganda. The lying from the corporations was long, loud and shameless. As was the greed of the elected officials who still promote them.

We know for a certainty that cutting government subsidies to fossil fuels will bring about significant change in short order. It is simply false to claim that there is need for a longer term transition since so many examples of successful transition are already evident. Solar panels and wind turbines are already more financially viable than fossil power for electricity generation. China is producing far more electric cars and buses than North America – and also building high speed electric railways and urban rapid transit systems. We could have been doing the same over the same period: it was not as if the technologies were not well understood and readily available. Instead we built even more freeways, and bought much bigger cars – and trucks – for personal transportation building our way to ever more automobile reliance, personal indebtedness and ill health as a consequence. There is nothing new about this understanding. What is new is that the children are now pointing out – loudly and with increasing credibility – how irresponsible politicians and corporate management have been, and how change must now happen faster, sooner and with much less attention paid to the personal fortune building of both.

But, really—who’s being naïve in this conversation?

See more – and much better – photos

Written by Stephen Rees

September 30, 2019 at 10:46 am

Breastfeeding and environment act on climate at birth

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I did not write that headline. It comes from a Press Release in my inbox from The Quebec Breastfeeding Movement . I clicked on the Google translation which I am pasting below – with some amendments to the English. I did look for a suitable illustration as none were provided but all I could find were those from sources which require a paid license for use.

This is not something that I expect the mainstream media here will cover, but it makes a good case. I have long been an advocate for breast feeding and divested from Nestlé in part due to my disgust at the misinformation in their advertising in third world countries, where mixing formula with local water creates a health risk as well as being very expensive.

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Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and three times faster than the United States. Breastfeeding has a positive impact on climate change, protects the environment and saves resources. Include it in strategies to reduce greenhouse gases is easy, profitable and socially acceptable.

Breastfeeding is the most environmentally friendly way to feed a baby: no packaging, no waste, no preservative additives, no transport. Its environmental impact is more tangible in industrialized countries than in developing ones. Increasing breastfeeding rates not only reduces the production of infant formula – a highly processed food – but it also reduces drug consumption through its impact on health.

“Many women breastfeed less than they wanted to at the outset,” says Raphaelle Petitjean, contract coordinator of the Quebec Breastfeeding Movement (QAM). The presence of supportive breastfeeding environment has a positive influence on the decision to breastfeed and facilitates further supporting breastfeeding women by concrete measures. “Breastfeeding is an individual decision, but establishing a supportive environment is a company responsibility,” says Marie-Eve Desforges, responsible for external affairs of the QAM.

In this election year, let us unite our voices to recall that breastfeeding is also an environmental issue.


About
The Quebec Breastfeeding Movement is an independent community organization whose mission is to contribute to making a supportive breastfeeding environment, in the context of optimal development of young children as well as the well-being of women, families and society . These environments must respect all women and all families.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 23, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Broadway at Cambie

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Broadway - City Hall Station

There is a very useful article by Kenneth Chan who in his usual diligent fashion covers the details of how the interchange at City Hall station is going to work when the new Millenium Line extension opens.

The most disappointing feature is that there will still be only the existing single station entrance. This is because there will be much less passenger activity as all the interchange traffic will be handled by three underground routes. Much of the existing foot traffic is people transferring from buses.

I am putting this quote here simply because I will then find it more easily. Not so long ago I had Harold Steves telling me on Twitter that the Canada Line north of Bridgeport is “fine”. No, it isn’t. I wish I had had this data to hand at the time.

“Like the Expo Line, the ultimate future capacity of the Millennium Line is 25,000 pphpd. In contrast, the ultimate future capacity of the Canada Line is 15,000 pphpd; currently, the Canada Line’s peak capacity is running at about 6,000 pphpd, and this will increase to over 8,000 pphpd when all 24 new additional train cars (12 two-car trains) go into service in January 2020.”

BUT it is not the volume of passengers at the station that concerns me so much as the sheer convenience and improved pedestrian safety that would result from an entrance on each corner. Which is the way that most busy stations in major cities with subways – or elevateds – are laid out. Maybe not all of them get escalators and elevators – but they do cut down the number of people who have to cross a very busy intersection, with often long waits for a suitable light.

There is now a very useful diagram of how the proposed underground interchange will work – taken from the BC Ministry of Transport’s flickr stream

Broadway-City Hall Station

Written by Stephen Rees

September 23, 2019 at 12:41 pm

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Indigenous Art at YVR

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We were out at the airport yesterday evening. A niece was on her way through, but had a couple of hours layover there while she changed planes. We arranged to meet her in the terminal for dinner.

This gave me a bit more time to look at the art which is installed at the entrance to the domestic arrivals area, in the basement. To find out more about these pieces go to the YVR webpage

The pictures below have all been posted on flickr and can be found there just by clicking on the image.

Thunderbird and Killer Whale by Richard Hunt 1999
Killer Whale and Thunderbird by Richard Hunt 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Human/Bear Masks by Dempsey Bob 1999
Back of "Thunderbird" by Richard Hunt
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob
YVR Domestic Arrivals Area
Human/Bear Masks  by Dempsey Bob

Written by Stephen Rees

September 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

From hyperloops to hailing rides:

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This is just the start of Justin McElroy’s puff piece for the CBC on Railvolution.

I am not going to be dragged off topic by venting on hyperloop or ride hailing. What triggered me was the reference to the lack of affordable housing – as though the lack of it was somehow the fault of transportation planning or unique to Vancouver. Indeed I do not understand why mainstream journalists continue to play around with the issue without placing the blame squarely where it should go.

Canada used to do affordable housing quite well. Though the word “affordable” is rather more recent. Back then it was pretty much accepted in the advanced western countries that the housing market did not work at all well for people on limited incomes and no wealthy background to help out. Housing the poor was regarded as an obligation that had to be accepted by government to avoid the sort of problems described by Dickens and Victor Hugo. Slums were always a feature of industrial landscapes – and for much of the nineteenth century seemed to be regarded as an unfortunate necessity. Until some manufacturers with social consciences – or religious obligations – started building decent homes for their employees. The quakers who ran most of the confectionary companies stand out in my mind – Cadbury and Rowntree. In fact the Rowntree Trust is still in the same business in the UK now.

In Canada the federal government funded public housing – up until the Jean Chretien administration when Paul Martin became Finance Minister and began the change to neoliberal – monetarist policies that cut back public spending on the poor in favour of tax breaks for the rich. This was pretty much the same policy that Thatcher had adopted in the UK – she forced the sale of the best council housing to the tenants in the stated conviction that it would convert them to Conservative voters.

While I am not saying there were no housing issues prior to this point, what is indisputable is that provincial and local governments have had a hard time since federal support for housing was withdrawn. And it is also noticeable that other publicly supported tenures such as co-ops have also been having a hard time.

Of course Vancouver is not alone in “experiencing challenges around affordability”. It has been made worse by the previous BC Liberal government turning a blind eye to money laundering. Vancouver was already a favoured destination for wealthy immigrants – again due to the federal policies that promoted the business class.

“municipalities across the region have faced pressure to keep land around transit-oriented developments affordable for those that need transit most” is really one of the silliest ways of looking at the issue. Municipalities can determine zoning: that is about the extent of it. Arguably, places that continued to stick to single family zoning for much of their territory did a lot to price people out. But then the places that did see development weren’t exactly cheap either.

The region had a strategy to limit sprawl, but that was blown out of the water – once again the BC Liberals decided to invest in highway expansion which far exceeded anything that was spent on transit in the same period. The Olympics were designed not just to attract visitors to a sports festival but to blow a hole in the regional strategies of Greater Vancouver and Squamish-Lillooet and encourage housing development and car commuting along the expanded Sea to Sky Highway. Jack Poole was a developer first and foremost.

So the combination of Hayekian fiscal measures federally and reckless mismanagement provincially is more than enough to explain why decent housing close to jobs has become so hard to find here. What is less acceptable is that having a so called “progressive” governments at both levels in recent years has not seen anything like an adequate response to the need for effective housing policies. It is not as if there is a shortage of resources. When governments find it possible to buy an oil pipeline and building the boondoggle Site C, they have no credibility at all when they plead poverty as a defense of inadequate social policies – where housing ought to have a much higher priority. And during a climate emergency when investing in tar sands and fracking should be anathema.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2019 at 2:37 pm