Burnaby’s water resources are all polluted to varying degrees despite attempts to preserve them. Yet, protecting the city’s rivers, streams, inlet and watersheds is surprisingly simple. The city must enact tough measures on polluters. And make no mistake about it, we all pollute. The easiest way to personally reduce pollution is to get out of your vehicle and use transit, bikes and your feet.
There are social, environmental and economic costs we choose to ignore every time we climb into the comfort of our vehicle. First of all there is the enormous amount of energy required to melt and mold the metals, plastics and rubber that our car is made from. Then there are the emissions of toxics and carbon dioxide that pollute the air and waters locally and help to warm the planet. There are also the oils and other poisonous fluids that leak or spill onto our roads and driveways and are washed down our storm sewers or get buried in our landfills. In addition there are over four million tires replaced on BC vehicles every year. Most tires are downcycled into other rubber products or burned as fuel additives while the rest are hidden in landfills or on private property. Add to this the economic and human costs associated with irresponsible driving. Hospital bills, accident claims and litigation put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars annually. Needless to say, if ten or twenty percent of regular commuters made the green choice to not drive, the need for large megaprojects like Gateway and other expansions of traffic infrastructure would disappear.
More transit users would create the critical mass to expand and improve transit services. Hitting that 20 percent target is difficult but not impossible. People need to make the choice to move closer to where they work. Ideally, work would be only a short walk or a ten minute bus ride. Understandably this is not an option for some, but many have done this, and we only need twenty percent. If we cannot live any closer, then we can choose to use transit or carpool. Transit needs to be affordable and convenient, but commuters need to make the sustainable choice to leave the car at home. While u-passes, federal government tax deductions and corporate rates for employee transit passes will encourage a few more people to board the bus, some individuals will still not be convinced to abandon the comforts of their cars. As a city, we can ensure that commuters to Burnaby pay their fair share for parking. Residential parking permits similar to Vancouver’s program, beefed up enforcement and limited free parking of up to 2 hours will motivate many drivers to bus it.
Additionally, city governments should lobby ICBC to charge motorists based on the distance their vehicle travels annually. Rates could be calculated so that the average driver would pay the same as they currently do whereas excessive drivers pay more and infrequent drivers pay less.. Ultimately, if we don’t make these difficult choices now, our kids will have to make harder choices in the future. The world reknowned primatologist, Jane Goodall recently said on CKNW, “We have not inherited this world from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children.” Let’s fix it before we return it.
(November 8, 2010)
(Includes all 2002 to date Weekly Features with descriptions)
Resources for Adults Completing High School