Friday, August 23, 2019

Open Space: We have to stop driving cars, before it’s too late

February 6, 2019 by Johnny Frem, contributing writer

A First Nations perspective on sustainability suggests looking ahead seven generations. But we might not have time for that: maybe we could just look ahead a few years.

On this planet of finite resources it has become suddenly urgent to consider our current unsustainable path. The most recent report of the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have just 12 years to change. Drastically. Difficult to hear? Try to listen with open ears and see the elephant in the room. Realize this: we must quit driving cars. Period.

Or perhaps you think we can just keep on driving. It’s all very well to protest pipelines and point fingers at the oil and gas industry, but I’m reminded of the 1980s, when we’d block logging roads and urge foreign nations to boycott BC’s wood industry. Meanwhile, I was a carpenter, and everyone I knew lived in a wood-frame house.

This story originally appeared in our February 6, 2019 issue.

Let’s not pretend the answer is simple. Europeans had to learn to think like the third little pig, but they only began to build walls with brick and roofs with ceramic tile when wood became scarce. It’d be nice to take the same wait-and-see approach to our fossil-fuel use. Unfortunately, climate disasters demand we act before the fuel becomes scarce.

I’ve always been disgusted by the waste left behind in the world by millions of thoughtless drivers. It never made sense for 200 pounds of human to take 2,000 pounds of metal everywhere. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s electric. This will be a tough road to follow. 

Let us lead.

Ten years ago, my colleagues and I were a roofing crew with a van.  We could’ve just kept on the way we were going, but someone stole our van. We were irate at first, but life confronts us when we aren’t in harmony. Anger is a signpost pointing to a change. We soon saw the loss of our van as an opportunity. We decided to turn around and go back to biking to work, which meant hauling all our equipment (ladders, tools, scaffolding, tarps) in three massive trailers—difficult, but eventually we figured out solutions. We worked closer to home. I eventually got an electric bike. I hauled with it for six years.

Recently, someone stole that electric bike. At first, I was upset. Anger was not useful. I had to admit I have different needs now. I’ve gone back to college and haven’t been roofing for nearly six months. I had to let go of my ego’s attachment to that property. My only wish is that whoever has it now is making better use of it.

Climate change doesn’t have to be your reason for ditching your car. I enjoy my pedal bike and I’m losing the spare tire around my waist that came with the e-bike. Otherwise, I ride the bus and enjoy the opportunity for conversation or study on the way to school.

Whether or not governments or corporations make changes, you can get out of your bubble. What you’ll lose you never owned anyway. What you’ll find is a path truly your own.

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