Thursday, February 21, 2008


It looks like, for better or worse, my home province of British Columbia will become the first jurisdiction in North America to implement a carbon tax. The idea is that through the application of negative incentives a change in behaviour will occur, resulting in consumers choosing more fuel efficient, less polluting vehicles (link here to learn more about this "revenue neutral" carbon tax).

Reaction has been mixed; some have seen this as a bold and necessary step to wean us off of our big gas guzzling and pollution spewing people movers, whereas others see this as another strike by the "nanny state" to legislate a change in behaviour at the expense of more natural market driven innovations. Of course the rather inane morning news shows have all had the obligatory "person on the street" interviews where some average Joe expresses his impotent rage while gassing up his monster truck.

I do however, feel for folks who live in rural areas who don't exactly have other alternatives like rapid transit whipping by their front door, and some of whom need big ass trucks for their jobs, however, for the Hummer driving urbanites I have zero sympathy. Also, putting all the pressure solely on consumers is kind of like only going after drug addicts, and not the drug dealers who profit off their addictions. Industry needs to pay up as well and have way higher standards mandated if this is going to work out and curb behaviour on a long term basis.

I think the transition to the post carbon age is going to be painful and unsettling for many people, on par with the social reorganization and displacement that occurred during the industrial revolution. Of course change isn't always a bad thing, though in the midst of it is is very unsettling as old taken for granted paradigms begin to collapse, while the new ones aren't obvious or clear in the interim.

The argument that something has to be done about global warming is a no brainer (unless you happen to own a ranch in Crawford, Texas and embrace ideological zealotry over logic or reason ) and in the context of peak oil and the gradual realization that our consumption driven lifestyles are no longer sustainable, it appears that some radical changes will occur within a generation. At the rate of change evident now I cannot even fathom what the world will look like in 10 - 15 years.


I am subjected on a daily basis to the endless slew of single occupant vehicles clogging the highway during my morning commute. Occasionally the absurdity of this reality becomes vividly apparent and I begin to daydream while stuck in traffic (I know daydreaming & driving don't mix).

I float high above the highway and see the line of traffic like some strange, multicoloured serpent spewing smoke out of thousands of tiny little orifices located up and down it's spine. Each chamber of it's body is inhabitant by some invasive parasite that you can see squirming about through tiny translucent portions of it's skin. I often think that this would be a frightening and awe inspiring vision to anyone traveling ahead in time from 100 years a go and witnessing this particular version of "progress".

I also have fantasies about everyone just spontaneously leaving their cars on mass, driven by some collective impulse to get off the hamster wheel of modern life, take a look around and begin to explore a different type of world. It would send ripples around the world and would cause many to question their own state of perpetual sleeplessness as they drift aimlessly through their day in their people movers. These daydreams keep my sane.

In closing, here is the inspiration for part of my fantasy sequence, the fabulous video for "Everybody Hurts" by REM;


Liberality said...

I just got a new car so I can get better fuel efficiency. What is amazing is that 20 years ago you could buy a car that got 50 MPG but now getting 32 MPG is considered good. Yeah, that's what the car I got rated 32 fucking MPG, geesh! I tried to find better but it wasn't out there to be bought!

Dean Wormer said...

Headline today in the local rag is "Analysts: Gas at $4 Dollars a Gallon."

I'm one of the people that live in the sticks and have a long commute. The trade off for me in using mass transit is time. I already spend about 3 hours/ day in a car commuting. Taking the light rail adds about an hour to that. With a 10-12 hour work day (I'm a manager) that means that hour I pick up by driving is golden.

Still - I recognize something has to give and I'm living a pretty wasteful/ selfish lifestyle in terms of resources I'm consuming.


Westcoast Walker said...

I guess its hard considering that in North America the mighty automobile has shaped how our cities were developed over the last century - change will be slow I imagine, and in the meantime we are trying to live our lives as best we can within these limitations.