Credit: santanartist

Kicking our car habit could be the best thing that ever happened to us...

Where we live is unique in BC, which is mostly mountainous. The broad river valley and estuary are priceless ecological resources, which we have done our best to pave over.

If we were only thinking of ourselves, you would have thought we would have taken better care of the best agricultural land in Canada. But instead we buy lettuce grown in the desert in California.

And you would have thought that the most prolific salmon stream, which had supported a significant local population for decades, was worth looking after.

Canada's three biggest health threats

We have always voiced concerns about parks, air and water quality, but we do not seem to understand the basic connection between the way we live and move around and the impact that has on our environment. We still see “environment” as somehow separate from and subordinate to the “economy.” But the reality is the reverse—without the natural resources we obtain from the environment, there is no economy.

Without air, water and food we cannot live.

We need to preserve what is left of the agricultural land reserve because raising lettuce in the desert in California is already becoming unfeasible—they do not have enough water. And the cost of importing stuff is going to rise dramatically as the reality of peak oil begins to hit home.

I do not need to make the case for the parks—people come out in droves to protect them already—and the watersheds seem secure, for now.

But we also need to find ways of living that do not depend on the automobile. And I think that will be true even if someone comes up with a workable replacement for the internal combustion engine.

When I look at our region it seems to me that car dependancy is at the core of most of our problems. Obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes are our three biggest health problems, and they all stem from lack of physical activity. The first thing anyone recommends to deal with these scourges is increasing the distance walked everyday. And the easiest way to achieve that is to build walking into the routine. But we continue to drive around looking for the parking spot closest to where we want to be!

The biggest threat to our children is not the unknown child snatcher, but the mum in the SUV who drives her child as close to the school entrance as possible every day. The reason it is hard to breathe in Chilliwack on a warm summer day is the amount that people in Greater Vancouver drive. That's also why you cannot see the mountains on a hot day. And the run off from the roads when it rains is one of the reasons there are fewer fish and frogs.

We are part of that web of life. It is not just something to look at on David Suzuki’s show once a week. We must realise that there’s more to be concerned about more than spotted salamanders or polar bears. It’s not just a problem in the remote wilderness; it is here, now.

We run for cures for cancer—but you can be pretty sure that the culprit of these diseases will have more to do with fossil fuels and petrochemicals, and “curing” them will involve more than a magic bullet drug. The reality is we cannot continue to live as we do; it’s making us sick.