Sunday, June 29, 2008
I wrote in January 2007 that The crazy weather has the environment on everybody's minds, and gov'ts will react. Whether (no pun intended) they react with vision remains to be seen.
Since then, they have reacted with some vision; the provincial Liberals have enacted a carbon tax of 2.4 cents per litre of gasoline, which takes effect the day after tomorrow. Is it too little too late? We got our cheques (and cashed them), but rumour has it that there is a fair bit of backlash, and Campbell is wavering. I'm not giving my 100 bucks back! The federal Liberals have also proposed a carbon tax, and are taking it as an election platform.
Personally, I don't understand all the crying - energy prices have sky-rocketed beyond imagination all by themselves (thanks to speculators?), and it is just going to get worse before, and if, it ever gets better. I figured out the other day that we spend 8.73% of our gross income on fuel for our vehicles. Ouch. We need the one gas pig for business, but my 17 year old 6 cylinder pig could use replacing with something of greater efficiency. Can someone spare me $40K for a Prius?
So what does that mean for the city? Less cars on the road (or more energy-efficient cars...), less pollution - lower insurance premia? It will probably mean more densification as people move back into the city and the emptying of suburbia. Back to small, self-contained towns. But what about employment? Vancouver has been hollowed out as far as jobs are concerned - fewer office buildings in the core as companies have moved out, and condos replace them. So what kind of economy will we have? Tourism is returning to the ambit of the affluent, so low-paying service jobs will be lost too. If it wasn't for the pending lack of employment, I would venture to say that property values would actually increase as people move into the cities.
Things are going to get harder before they get easier. With escalating food prices, more people will be turning to produce their own food in their gardens, so we may well see the end of manicured lawns, and litle-used streets may well be turned to food production, infill housing, etc. The only comment on that January '07 post was someone who said that my utopian view of the Vancouver of the future could not happen because of all of the sewers, fibre optics cables, power, water mains etc., that run under the streets, but those are quite deep for the most part, so tearing up the asphalt and planting corn will have little to no effect on that aspect. What about police, ambulance, fire services? We could keep the alleys as they are and tear up the streets for infill housing, gardens, etc. Condo dwellers are going to face a bit of a challenge to grow their own food, so maybe more community gardens in parks? Allotments are old hat in Europe, why not here? The skies will be quieter with much less air traffic (and less chemtrails?!).
It looks like the USA might not be wanting the dirty oil from the tar sands very soon, so it will be interesting to see what happens to Alberta, I suppose China may want to buy it though.
Speaking of China, with the rising cost of transportation, it will soon be uneconomical to import everything that we wear, computers and electronics, etc., so there will be opportunities to start producing what we use here, and that will recreate jobs that have been lost to globalization.
There is a time of transition ahead, and that will not likely be smooth, but in the long run, we will likely be better off, and living much simpler, and hopefully, more meaningful lives. I read a good book some years ago called The Fifth Sacred Thing. It was an interesting and idyllic look at how we would live post-oil economy. It sounded great.
From that January 2007 post, here is a link to some of the ideas for a more livable city. It is a good start, and was produced before energy prices went hay-wire.