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Sustainability and A Planet Out of Whack

We are talking more and more about sustainability, as an end to our oil resources is something almost calculable by now. As our living space will decrease with population growth and demands on usable water will increase. As our landfills overflow and seep toxic gunk into the groundwater.  As our land turns to dustbowls or swamps and arable land becomes scarce, as millions of cars belch fumes into the sky.

Right now fires are sweeping across BC, again, threatening people living in cities. In Westbank/Kelowna 11,000 people have been evacuated with another 6,000 on alert. This echoes the terrible, devastatingly traumatic fires that swept through parts of Australia earlier this year. Fires so intense and vicious that they caught people as they tried to get into their cars, that burned land to a cinder killing all living things, whether plant or animal, that stood upon the land. Australia faces the collapse of its wine industry, vines grown for years either burned to a crisp or without water to keep the crops going. Their cattle industry is also in danger. A whole country and continent without enough water.

This is not a new thing. Disasters and climatic devastation have happened throughout history but the ferocity and frequency are increasing as the planet warms and suffers under the onslaught of chemicals and fumes not meant to play with nature. The change in the planet probably began with the industrial revolution, once machines were chugging blue smoke into the sky and sluicing runoff into the streams. It began with the first car. And if we think about it, that was only about a hundred years ago. A tenth of a millennium and civilization has existed for at least twenty thousand years.

Think about it. We are exponentially increasing the danger to the planet and to ourselves, and sticking our heads in the sand won’t make it go away. So just what is sustainability? Let’s look at defining it first, from Merriam Webster: 1: capable of being sustained 2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society> 

So that a resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Wow. Perhaps it’s easier to look at what is not sustainable than what is. What’s left over is what we have to work with. Let’s start with the biggest resource. Our planet. It is of a finite circumference with finite water and land. The world population is at 6.7 billion. It is expected to increase to 9 billion in 2040. That’s within a lot of our lifetimes. There will be less land to live on and the more building that happens takes away from land to grow upon. Water is already an issue in many places. What will it be like in thirty years?

This means no matter how much you love children, think they’re cute, want to be surrounded by bundles of joy or your religion has said, go forth and multiply, it is just not sustainable. Everyone can take personal responsibility and for every couple have one child. That will bring our population down. It will make the planet breathe a sigh of relief and continue a bit longer. Plagues, diseases and flus won’t spread like wildfire. And yes, businesses will have to restructure from the grow grow grow buy more mentality. But we’ll survive.

What is not sustainable is manufacturing more and cheaper cars, SUVs, Hummers and every gas guzzling monster. For sustainability they should be outlawed. And we see right now the glacial progress of moving to electric cars. Governments need to move faster on this and provide incentives to get people to change. More cars plug city thoroughfares and raise costs in maintenance, accident prevention and care. Fewer cars and bigger carpool systems will lessen the strain and road rage. Electric cars, bicycles, viable and cheap public transit will help alleviate both pollution and the sucking of the world’s limited oil and metal resources. Another unsustainable depleting resource.

Manufacturing that uses water needs to be looked at, if our water is becoming limited. Healthy, interactive systems of filtration need to be used to keep our water pure and reusable. We could end up like the people in the novel Dune, having to wear suits that recycle and sweat and urine into drinkable fluids over and over because the planet is desert. Water saving devices for taps, toilets and showers must be used. Education will help stem the tide there.

Building homes and offices, making paper all work on depleting trees. The forestry industry has been made responsible for replanting for quite a few years. But you can chop down more trees in a day than will grow in  a year. it takes years to get a big tree, centuries. Ripping out too many tress not only affects flora and fauna of an ecosystem but also affects the topsoil, the nutrients and the infrastructure of the land for both stability and water.

I could go on but every person as well as every company and government must take responsibility and look at what they use and how it’s reused or discarded. Everything from food to clothing. If we don’t start now, we should have started fifty years ago. And if you truly love children, start now and look at what you can do for sustainability because there could be no tomorrow.

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Driving Me Crazy: Driver Etiquette

I really think that there are way too many people on the road these days who shouldn’t be there, who don’t know how to drive or who have forgotten or who have become just plain dangerous. What’s the solution? Have them do a driver’s test every year? Well, that would raise the cost of our licenses and everyone would study up (which would help) but it doesn’t mean they would drive better the rest of the time. So, I’m not sure what the solution is. Spy drivers? Increase fines for when you’re caught? But fines, like death, are something that people think will never happen to them.

Our cities are too congested, our roadways inadequate for the commuting, our public transit inefficient or too expensive for many commuters, our homes too expensive and so people buy further and further out. This all leads to people going long distances, speeding, feeling pressured, working too much and getting angry. Governments need to take a far ranging approach but also every person has to take responsibility for their own actions.

Here are some of the purely insane or stupid things I’ve seen drivers do. If you’re reading this, I hope you won’t/don’t do these or will consider not continuing to do them.

  • Changing lanes into a turning lane and then signal. Duh, it’s obvious once you’re in the turning lane that you’re going to turn. Let’s look at the word “signal.” What does it mean? If you signal someone or something you are attracting attention and letting someone know you’re going to do something. A turning signal lets people know you’re going to turn or change lanes. You use it before you move into another lane, not after. And as the bumper stickers say, it is not an option. It’s the law. If you signal that you’re changing lanes it lets the drivers around you know that you may be changing speed and merging. The signal should blink at least three times (not a half-blip) before you do any lane change or turn, giving everyone enough time to react properly. It’s done for safety and to avoid accidents. 
  • Speeding up to not let people in. I watched a guy in rush-hour traffic yesterday as all of us crept along. He would leave a big space in front of his car, but when a car signalled properly that it was going to change lanes and then merged into the empty spot, the guy sped up and honked his horn at the car, then of course veered into the HOV lane without signalling (and a single driver). Remember this, folks. No one is ever first on the road. It’s a long asphalt snake with no beginning and no ending (more or less) and there is always someone ahead of you and behind you. Try some courtesy and it might be returned. It’s give and take; if someone signals and gives enough time, let them in, and if you are the one signalling don’t cut off a car coming up quickly. Oh, and if someone does let you in, do signal them with a wave of thanks. It’s the polite thing to do.
  • Sideswiping and crowding. I’ve been nearly pushed into the retaining wall on the highway when I was already on the exit ramp and a truck came over from the next lane into me. I honked and he just kept coming, pushing me onto the shoulder. I’ve had some insane woman nearly crush me because I was coming from a merging lane, signalling, and she wouldn’t let me in, willing to risk damage. Another guy one night, when the highway was empty, came into my lane and pushed me toward the retaining wall. Why? I don’t get this at all. Where do you think people should go? We can’t disapparate.
  • Insane road rage. But perhaps the above is just another sign of road rage. Like the time I was in the curb lane with cars parked beside me. A car stopped in front of me, a taxi I think, to let someone out. The car behind me blared his horn. Then after the car in front of me turned off, that car followed me with his lights on high. I’m still not sure how I was supposed to do anything else.
  • Street racing: we can blame car companies partly for the increase in this. Ads always declare the cars fast and sexy. And yeah, young guys have to prove they’re cool by racing but it’s absolutely unsafe and enough people have already been killed in Vancouver because of it. Drag racing was the old style problem and again could be an issue for safety of other drivers and pedesterians. But the amount of souped up and super fast cars makes this even more of an issue. Speeds of 150 km in the city are not acceptable and you certainly can’t react fast enough at that speed.

Sideswiping, speeding, tailgating, rudeness, all are extremely dangerous and do lead to accidents and death. It is the worst type of bullying, and criminal. I still think of those poor guys, on the way to the airport, who were first pushed off the road and then the guy came back, insane with anger, and ran over one young man, killing him.  Why? Did they do something first? Who knows but this sort of escalation is completely crazy. Driving isn’t a game or a competition. Not on our city streets. It’s thousands of people, each one unique and important in their way, and they all have a myriad things going on. They’re busy, sick, preoccupied, worried, happy, rushed, relaxing, whatever. It’s about people getting safely from one destination to the next. You, the driver cannot possibly know why someone does something. People sometimes make stupid mistakes. But if we try to be kinder, calmer, not presume the worst and be more aware, perhaps we can save just a few more lives, or a lot more, on the roads.

And I have to watch it when these drivers drive me crazy. Therein lies the path to road rage. Right now I shoot them with my finger gun and leave at that, grateful that we do have gun laws. Maybe counselling should be added to every driver’s licence exam. Counselling before you get the license and every couple of years.

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Should Drugs be Legalized?

This should be justified as, should recreational drugs be legalized? With Vancouver’s recent spate of gangland shootings (13 in less than three weeks) this topic has come up that they’re fighting over drug money. A very good supposition and though there are those that say it has to do with pot, I’m guessing there’s a full gamut and the relatively cheaper marijuana is at the bottom of the list, which is topped by crack cocaine, crystal meth and heroin.

So, should drugs be legalized? Remember prohibition, when alcohol suddenly became illegal (having been drunk for years) and the religious right screaming temperance? Of course there were some legitimately good reasons for limiting alcohol intake. The Wild West gained its moniker for a good reason and the TV series Deadwood is not far off the mark, when only men came to new areas to mine gold or trap or work in lumber mills. Vancouver’s own early history is so colored, with the first women in the townships being the bar girls and First Nations women, sometimes married to a lonely man.

But prohibition only meant that what people wanted now had to be procured through illegal means. The underground became more established and organized crime ran booze in from various areas. Rum runners became a common aspect of the prohibition years in the early 20th century. Prohibition did linger in that there are now certain laws around the consumption of alcohol. 

Once alcohol was legalized the only way organized crime could make money off of it was to bring in far larger quantities at cheaper rates. Or say, smuggle tobacco and the far more lucrative and illegal drugs.

So yes, if we legalize all those illicit drugs, we take the cash crop away from the gangs and put it in the hands of the government. Marijuana, which is far less nasty than alcohol in its affects on humans should be legalized to save the cops time for the important issues. Like the drug addled crimes of addicts breaking into homes and cars for their next fix. They don’t tend to do that on marijuana.

So let’s say we legalize all drugs. The cost goes down for the drug, which takes down the cost of law enforcement and break-ins. The price of health care might be the same or might go down. It may not be as fun to take if the drug is no longer illegal. Will there still be addicted people? Yes, but maybe fewer. And they won’t be as stigmatized. Well, maybe. After all, we do have alcoholics in all walks of society and there is still a stigma, but many of them hold down jobs to pay for their habits. They’re less likely to be breaking into someone’shome or car with readily available and cheap liquor. Ask the lawyers and business people who are alcoholics. (Note: this is just an example of a few professions but like I said, it’s in all walks of life.)

There is another aspect. Yes, it’s sad to see people addicted and this often speaks to underlying problems, many of which can be tracked back to one form of abuse or another. So the money saved in crime prevention can be put towards mental health, and the cost and distribution of drugs lessens. It would take time to implement but it can work. This last aspect is that we stop controlling another person’s decisions and let them be responsible to themselves. It’s not perfect and we need laws with which society must function. But changing some of the laws on drugs could lessen the gang crime and the substance abuse.

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