How much opportunity do individuals have to affect climate change?

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Edzell Edzell's picture
How much opportunity do individuals have to affect climate change?

This post elsewhere by Martin N.....

Quote:
It's amazing how quickly they can greenwash that dirty oil money when the opportunity presents itself
......prompts me to ponder how I can live in reasonable comfort, within existing local conditions, while doing anthing significant to ameliorate climate change or its potential consequences.

The relevance of the above quote to my own existence is the fact that although I declare my belief that change is happening and - on the precautionary principle - we should be trying to slow/stop it, nevertheless I'm still living pretty much as I always have and don't see much other option. I'm definitely not keen on living a Spartan existence just to make a tiny irrelevant difference in the "Grand scheme."

Note that this topic is not intended as a place to argue whether on not change is happening or whether we can/can't affect it. The assumption for the sake of discussion is that it's happening and we should at least try to do something about it.

For context: My wife & I, in our (very) late 70s, live in a rural area more than 3 miles from town, with no bus service, so we have a 10 yr old car and another (1990!) for backup. We have small savings we're reluctant to break into in case we need them "in our old age" - haha. Our 1950s house has little value and if/when it sells will likely be bulldozed. Hence we can't sell for enough money to move into town (where our property tax would also increase by many hundreds of dollars.) We do grow vegetables but are less & less able to do heavy garden work as well as keep the deer at bay without spending for professional fencing.

Well, I do go on, don't I? Just trying to illustrate how difficult it would be - for us at least - to implement any climate-change-combat measures. The fact that so many others are doing nothing about it doesn't strengthen any feeble resolve I could drum up. It's quite tempting to assume that by the time things get really bad I'll be gone, so I'll just happily ignore the whole issue (like the "deniers") and all the "rest of you" can lie in the bed you've made.

Not sure why I've posted this; whether I'm asking a question and if so, what? I do think about it a lot. I guess I just think it's an interesting and important dilemma and it would be interesting to hear others' comments on it, especially with respect to their own situations.

Issues Pages: 
Martin N.

Home grid-tied solar systems. Payback is coming down to 10 years or so as both capital cost is reduced and efficiency is improved. Government and activists both need to stop looking to grandiose strategies an embrace the simple solutions. Low and fixed income Canadians can't afford the capital costs of home renewables but subsidies and tax credits can gain good, long term jobs, lower carbon footprints and relieve baseload demand.

Mr. Magoo

I think this is a good question that doesn't (as far as I've seen) have a good and sensible answer.

Perhaps once carbon is measured and taxed and traded, we'll have a better idea of whether biking to work two days a week does or doesn't make up for a yearly leisure vacation by airplane, or whether making the effort to "shop local" offsets a daily consumption of coffee or chocolate.

Until the actual and measurable effect of various personal choices is better rationalized, I expect most people will continue to do those things that make sense to them to do, and that are not unduly burdensome -- whether that's buying a hybrid car or eating less meat or re-using old shampoo bottles.

I think a big part of the problem is that personal choices are pretty much the only ones we can make directly, and I'm not sure how eager I am to adopt a vegan diet "to save the planet" while my neighbour takes a cheap flight back to the old country twice a year, or drives an SUV so they can stock up on cases of bottled water when some big-box retailer has them on sale.  What's the point?

Edzell Edzell's picture

Martin N. wrote:
Home grid-tied solar systems. Payback is coming down to 10 years or so as both capital cost is reduced and efficiency is improved. Government and activists both need to stop looking to grandiose strategies an embrace the simple solutions.

Roger that (as I believe they say :) - some of them anyway.)

Quote:
Low and fixed income Canadians can't afford the capital costs.

And roger that too, if it's not an obscene expression. Closing on 80 years of age I'm not about to borrow the money - as if anyone would lend it  to me - for a big capital expenditure whicn may (I seriuosly doubt it) return enough to pay off the loan by the time I'm ninety - if I live that long.

But I didn't start this thread just to complain. I'm interested in what other people are doing, or what they think will soon become practical and acceptable to them for combatting climate change (again on the assumption that it's happening and we should try to slow or stop it.)

Edzell Edzell's picture

Mr. Magoo wrote:

I think this is a good question that doesn't (as far as I've seen) have a good and sensible answer.

Perhaps once carbon is measured and taxed and traded, we'll have a better idea of whether biking to work two days a week does or doesn't make up for a yearly leisure vacation by airplane, or whether making the effort to "shop local" offsets a daily consumption of coffee or chocolate.

Until the actual and measurable effect of various personal choices is better rationalized, I expect most people will continue to do those things that make sense to them to do, and that are not unduly burdensome -- whether that's buying a hybrid car or eating less meat or re-using old shampoo bottles.

I think a big part of the problem is that personal choices are pretty much the only ones we can make directly, and I'm not sure how eager I am to adopt a vegan diet "to save the planet" while my neighbour takes a cheap flight back to the old country twice a year, or drives an SUV so they can stock up on cases of bottled water when some big-box retailer has them on sale.  What's the point?

That pretty much sums up my own thoughts - should have mentioned we gave up the bikes last year :(. "What's the point" seems to BE the point? I'm sad about that. Re. vegetarianism, if you've watched "Wartime farm," it's interesting how the British govt forced the conversion of huge amounts of farmland from cattle to (more nutritionally efficient) vegetable crops in WW2.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..setting out what your goals are would be a good place to start. understanding what is causing the crisis we are in. and how is it we are to prevent the global temperatures from rising above 2c. in your position edzell, as you stated in your opening post, your footprint is quite low. while there are things you maybe able to do it is important to understand that we need to prevent the expansion of the tarsands and transition away from the car via mass transit..for instance. so being an activist may be the best option as it is for me at 68 yrs old.

Edzell Edzell's picture

epaulo13 wrote:
transition away from the car via mass transit..for instance
That's a good example  of something - mass transit - that in much of Canada  is not viable. Outside of the larger cities the terrain is so wide and varied, and the population so scattered, that it can't be done in ecomomic or even practical terms. Even here within 3 miles of a good-size town, a bit down on its luck, there's not a chance that bus service will come my way in the foreseeable future.

I don't mean to sound negative or dismissive but it's just an example of the largely insoluble bind we seem to be in, and the inability of the individual to impact it seriously. Mabe if I had a Trump personality I could get enough people riled up to bring about some kind of new paradigm, but I'm not your man :). It would take some looming disaster, equivalent to wartime attack, to get folks willingly pulling together and accepting reduced circumstances. I do think the disaster is coming but by the time it looms large enough to wake people up, it will likely be far too late.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i don't share your prespective. we as people can pretty much have it if were willing to fight for it. but it is not my intention to try and convience you so i won't.

Edzell Edzell's picture

epaulo13 wrote:
... it is not my intention to try and convience you so i won't.

Not too sure what it is exactly that you would have tried to convince me if you hadn't intended not to, so I'll just try to ignore whatever it was you didn't say. Shouldn't be too hard!

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Edzell wrote:

epaulo13 wrote:

transition away from the car via mass transit..for instance

That's a good example  of something - mass transit - that in much of Canada  is not viable. Outside of the larger cities the terrain is so wide and varied, and the population so scattered, that it can't be done in ecomomic or even practical terms.

That is a glass half empty argument.  Mass transit is very viable for the large cities where much of the population lives. However I often despair of the task at hand. If you want save the planet it means curbing the military. A fighter jet in an hour burns more fuel than many of us burn  in our cars in a year.  Every sortie over Iraq or Libya by the RCAF negates most of our potential individual contributions. The planet needs peace and just grounding all the worlds airforce's would make an immense difference.

It is in the big ideas that lies the way forward but in our system our economy is centrally planned in boardrooms in other countries. Until we can figure out how the people can influence major decisions we are merely tumbleweed in a windstorm. Our politics lets us choice between parties but not between policies because those are made in corporate boardrooms not government offices.

iyraste1313

I don't mean to sound negative or dismissive but it's just an example of the largely insoluble bind we seem to be in...

...of course people feel impotent to effect personal change....it´s at the institutional level that people need to change...the military state, the totally parasitical financial system, the vast wealth of the conspicuously rich, the inequality in society forcing overwhelming parasitical security costs....the drug industry with their high carbon footprint for mostly conditions which easily can be cured by good diet and natural medicines, not to mention the infrastructure of all that poisonous fastfood outlets.....the high capital costs to destroy the earth and watersheds, for the minerals which should just be recycled...ad nauseum...we need system change!...But we´re not going to get it if we don´t talk about it, then organize around it....

Edzell Edzell's picture

It's not true that we can only vote for parties.

We can vote for independents beholden to no party, who can on occasion hold the balance of power. I wish there was a way of getting more of them elected. Their greater representation in parliament  could (I believe) make for more carefully considered legislation.

Voting directly for policies would have to be done by referendum, I think.

Martin N.

Mr. Magoo wrote:

I think this is a good question that doesn't (as far as I've seen) have a good and sensible answer.

Perhaps once carbon is measured and taxed and traded, we'll have a better idea of whether biking to work two days a week does or doesn't make up for a yearly leisure vacation by airplane, or whether making the effort to "shop local" offsets a daily consumption of coffee or chocolate.

Until the actual and measurable effect of various personal choices is better rationalized, I expect most people will continue to do those things that make sense to them to do, and that are not unduly burdensome -- whether that's buying a hybrid car or eating less meat or re-using old shampoo bottles.

I think a big part of the problem is that personal choices are pretty much the only ones we can make directly, and I'm not sure how eager I am to adopt a vegan diet "to save the planet" while my neighbour takes a cheap flight back to the old country twice a year, or drives an SUV so they can stock up on cases of bottled water when some big-box retailer has them on sale.  What's the point?

climate change aside, these personal measures are simply the right thing to do. Each individual must decide for themselves what they wish to accomplish and the price they wish to pay..... Unrealistic big picture drama that fades with electoral cycles only to be raised by the next self-promoting saviour does nothing but feed the churning of policy and burning of funding for no appreciable gain. What the world looks like 100 years from now matters little compared to how you personally leave it. .... Millions of individuals making a contribution - a real contribution, not 'fighting for social justice' or 24/7 keyboard bloviating, will create change.

lagatta4

I apoligise for a technical problem. I can't seem to make paragraphs. I'm taking my computer to the doc and will try to edit this as soon as I can.................................................................................................................................................................................

Actually a higher proportion of Canadians are living in cities now; the problem there is criminally bad planning known as suburban sprawl, making a car or several a necessity for a family, when proper planning would incorporate the planning to make public transport viable and increase offerings within a walkable (or easily cyclable) area.

Kropotkin is of course correct that the military is a HUGE and largely uncontrolled polluter. War obviously pollutes and destroys as well as killing and maiming humans and other sentient beings and destroying flora, but even "peacetime" military activity is hugely polluting.

I've never owned or driven a car, which of course limits and directs where I live and work. I'll be very sad indeed when and if I have to stop cycling - there are better models for elderly cyclists now, with a very open step-through (I see loads of those in the Netherlands) and electric assist means that people can continue cycling if they have to face hills despite joint or circulatory problems.

While I eat little meat, I'm not a vegan though.

For me,activism is a big part of the response - not only against fracking and pipelines, but also urban ecology activism in favour of pedestrians and cyclists, as well as a better public transport system. And as kropotkin states, activism against militarism, with the corrolary of conversion to jobs in socially-useful industries and services.

There are ways of organising public transport in smaller places using smaller buses and taxis - self-driving vehicles, provided they are truly safe, would be a boon to such systems. Here in Montréal, a major northeastern expansion to the métro has been on the drawing boards for 25 years now. The extension to Laval has meant far fewer commuters driving into Montréal, but unfortunately it has overburdened the orange line (the one closest to my house).

A problem one forgets is "rural sprawl". I have relatives in very small towns in Québec and eastern Ontario, and the core of those towns is fully walkable. These are surrounded by a ring of sprawl - I'm not referring to farms, of course, but to houses on large lots that are used very little for vegetable gardens or orchards.

Edzell, I'm sure you and Madame Edzell have a very low carbon footprint, probably using your car mostly for shopping and medical and other professional visits, and to see people nearby. If you are retired, you probably have reduced your clothing needs (business clothing for white-collar jobs, workwear for blue-collar jobs...)

And probably aren't in the "fast fashion" habit. I'm considerably younger than you but old enough to get cranky about the "stuff kids buy" that is worn out after a season.

Martin N.

Is it feasible to remodel cities into people-friendly places on a large scale? Pedestrian/bike/mass transit oriented with lots of green spaces to mitigate crowd stress? Some urban planning types favour higher density over green spaces but the European model of concentric ring roads and mixed zoning seems to work well

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Creating “Super-Blocks” in Barcelona

quote:

The new plan will return 60% of the space of the streets where cars circulate today to the citizens for pedestrian use. The city has an ambitious plan for the redesign of the blocks of neighborhoods, turning them into “super-blocks.” The idea is to join nine city blocks into one, forming a square. The cars on the internal streets will be replaced by boardwalks, bike paths, recreational areas and green areas. The Eixample district will be the first to participate in the project.

Oslo moves to ban cars from city centre within four years

Proposed ban on private vehicles is part of a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels

 

..eta: 1 more for good luck.

Paris Pushes Its Car-Free Streets Plan Even Further

When Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo banned cars from a large section of the River Seine’s quayside last autumn, she met a fierce backlash from pro-car advocates and some suburban mayors. As part of her annual New Year address on Friday, she outlined her response to this vocal resistance.

Rather than backtracking or mollifying critics, she’s going to push her pedestrianization measures even further. In autumn 2018, Paris will extend its car-free zone westward by a kilometer, install a guided bus line, and convert some space that’s currently used by cars into a two-way bike path. The openly declared objective: first to cut Paris’ car space by 50 percent, then ultimately rid central Paris of non-residents’ cars altogether. If Hidalgo has been rattled by criticism of her anti-car policies, she’s hiding it pretty well....

 

lagatta

Yes, it is possible to have a relatively high overall density with green spaces, as well as trees along streets. The improvements in public transport (especially the modern trams) in and around Paris are very impressive. 

lagatta

double post

Martin N.

What about in Canada? Can the urban sprawl and wasted space of freeways be altered to solve the conundrum of city workers who commute because they can't afford to live in the city?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Martin N. wrote:

What about in Canada? Can the urban sprawl and wasted space of freeways be altered to solve the conundrum of city workers who commute because they can't afford to live in the city?

I think each of our three major metro areas have there own issues over things like freeways. Metro Vancouver's transit and freeways both depend on bridges and tunnels to move people around the region. For instance instead of the massive new toll bridge on the main freeway the plans could have included rapid train transit to come up the Vally with commuter parking and an end point at various Sky train stations.  

But the design of our infrastructure in BC has been driven by the P3 process.  If the corporate partners can't make an ongoing profit for forty years then the project does not go ahead. So we have bridges that are tolled and and thus underutilized and we are paying a subsidy to the P3 corp because the tolls keeps the traffic below the guaranted fees in the contract.  A commuter train doesn't pay tolls.

Martin N.

Also, more lanes encourage more vehicle use and longer commutes with the attendant vehicle costs. P3s are just another method for governments to defer spending onto their books but there is only one tax/toll payer picking up the tab.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Martin N. wrote:

P3s are just another method for governments to defer spending onto their books but there is only one tax/toll payer picking up the tab.

That is one effect of them but IMO the primary reason is to shovel obscene profits to mostly Wall Street financiers. All P3's claim to privatize risk but in all of them the ultimate bag holder when things go wrong is the government. Many studies have shown that P3's are more expensive and not as transparent as properly tendered infrastructure projects financed by the government. Now if we would only use the Bank of Canada for a financier we would be able to build a lot more projects.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
But I'm not aware of any Canadian "3P" roads or bridges, or of tolls being paid to a private company.

Well, there's Highway 407.

Edzell Edzell's picture

kropotkin1951 wrote:
But the design of our infrastructure in BC has been driven by the P3 process.  If the corporate partners can't make an ongoing profit for forty years then the project does not go ahead. So we have bridges that are tolled and and thus underutilized and we are paying a subsidy to the P3 corp because the tolls keeps the traffic below the guaranted fees in the contract.

Maybe I'm naive, unobservant or just behind the times (living where I do.) But I'm not aware of any Canadian "3P" roads or bridges, or of tolls being paid to a private company. In my experience roads & bridges have not been built either wholly or partly by public employees. They are contracted out and if tolls are applied they accrue to the government, ostensibly to cover the cost of the contracts.

If there are examples of 3P highway works where the builder is part owner or part owner and receives toll revenue I'd genuinely like to hear the details.

Edzell Edzell's picture

Mr. Magoo wrote:
Quote:
But I'm not aware of any Canadian "3P" roads or bridges, or of tolls being paid to a private company.
Well, there's Highway 407.

Thanks, Mr M. Sounds like a bit of a royal screw-up. Are there more of these "initiatives?" Who paid for the construction of the privately-operated part? Knowing nothing of your area I'm unaware of the traffic problems it causes - availability of alternative routes, etc. In fact, having retired to the BC "hinterland" decades ago, I'm not even sure if any of these high tech "open toll" roads exist this side of the Rockies. Old friends in Vancouver ask "Don't you ever get off that island?" to which my response is "No, why would I?" :)

Mr. Magoo

As a non-driver, I really don't know what the alternatives are to the 407, though I might guess that they could include a longer trip, more gridlock, or whatever.

I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that the privately owned portion was constructed publically, but with private funds.  It's not that the owners were out there on weekends, with shovels, but it seems they simply purchased the rights to that chunk for enough to build that chunk.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Edzell wrote:

kropotkin1951 wrote:
But the design of our infrastructure in BC has been driven by the P3 process.  If the corporate partners can't make an ongoing profit for forty years then the project does not go ahead. So we have bridges that are tolled and and thus underutilized and we are paying a subsidy to the P3 corp because the tolls keeps the traffic below the guaranted fees in the contract.

Maybe I'm naive, unobservant or just behind the times (living where I do.) But I'm not aware of any Canadian "3P" roads or bridges, or of tolls being paid to a private company. In my experience roads & bridges have not been built either wholly or partly by public employees. They are contracted out and if tolls are applied they accrue to the government, ostensibly to cover the cost of the contracts.

If there are examples of 3P highway works where the builder is part owner or part owner and receives toll revenue I'd genuinely like to hear the details.

I typed vancouver p3 bridges into google. Have a read and get back to me when you are more up to speed on the subject.

https://www.google.ca/search?q=vancouver+p3+bridge&rlz=1C5CHFA_enCA689CA...

Edzell Edzell's picture

kropotkin1951 wrote:
I typed vancouver p3 bridges into google. Have a read
Thanks; those examples are interesting. Glad I live where anything more than a 10-vehicle lineup is a traffic jam and being "up to speed" means getting your garlic in the ground before October.