Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Smog and Bridges

Never mind that LA’s infamous air slapped millions with allergy-like symptoms. People didn’t want to accept that their lifestyles-their dual cars, their electricity sucking kitchens- shared any blame.

They also did no think they should have to pay much or suffer any minor reduction in range or performance to reduce air pollution, and when called upon to do so, many Californians… could get very childish.
So last week, I finished reading the book Smogtown: The lung-burning history of pollution in Los Angeles. And I finished reading it at the perfect time because a lot of what the book talks about is also the Vancouver experience. The book basically looks at the history of smog-fighting in—and therefore, the history of—LA.

It is a depressing story. Here is a summary: 1940’s we have smog, it must be big business, let’s do something. Scientist: it’s from cars... 1950’s we still have smog, we must crack down on big business, cars don’t pollute. Scientist: most of LA’s pollution is from cars… 1960’s hmmm, this cracking down on big business isn’t working too well, maybe it might be cars, let’s study this more. Scientist: the pollution is from cars… 1970’s Pollutions is from cars, let’s crack down on cars… Car lobby: we are not going to make cars less polluting. 1980’s Let’s crack down on big business again. 1990’s Less pollution is coming from cars, but we have more cars than we did in the past, we need to reduce car-dependence. Californians: Over our dead bodies. 2000’s we have a problem with green house gas, we must reduce our car-dependence...

Anyway the point is that, just like Metro Vancouver, people in LA are willing to have other people change for the sake of the environment, but personal lifestyle change is must harder. We know that 2/3 of all green house gases come from our homes and vehicles, yet very little has changed in improvements to home efficiency and transportation patterns. It is a bit depressing to thing that even with thick pollution, people in LA were resistant to change. It makes me think that it will be much harder to get people to change over something that is less visible in our daily lives, like global warming.

Now what does the Burrard Bridge have to do with this? While the change in road space allocation on the bridge really isn’t going to do too much for the environment, it sends a big message. (The City of Vancouver has been reducing auto road space in Downtown Vancouver for years. In fact auto use is something like the number 3 choice for transportation.) Our lifestyle must change and we will help you by giving priority to sustainable transportation.

As an aside, have a look at the comments section in the local papers about Burrard Street Bridge articles. It seems that there are a lot of irrational comments and hatred coming from a certain group. All that hatred, while apparently things weren’t that bad traffic-wise on Monday…

2 comments:

Chip said...

As one of the authors of "Smogtown," I can say you hit the gist of the emission-side of our saga pretty much right on the button. People in democracies, in many ways, deserve the air they breathe if they perpetuate chronic polluted conditions with toxic- consumer lifestyles and vote for politicians unwilling to think long term. Thanks for reading our book. I'll get off my soapbox now.

Chip Jacobs

Nathan Pachal said...

Thanks for the comment, I agree that it seems you have to drag people kicking and screaming to a better life sometimes...