Tuesday, November 20, 2007

renewable dinosaur energy

Picture from How stuff works.

Although we aren't really noticing in Canada, because our soaring dollar is protecting us from high gasoline prices, the price of oil is rebounding towards $100.00/barrel - closing today at $98.03. It hasn't affected gas prices here much, but in the states (from what I can tell using google news), gas has gone up around .25cents in the last month.

And still none of the major news outlets, or political figures, are really talking about peak oil. Maybe this will change with a report released in October from the Energy Watch Group - the executive summary is here.

As coverage in the Guardian Newspaper explains, the report states the following:

  • World oil production has already peaked and will fall by half as soon as 2030, according to a report which also warns that extreme shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.

  • "The world soon will not be able to produce all the oil it needs as demand is rising while supply is falling. This is a huge problem for the world economy," said Hans-Josef Fell, EWG's founder and the German MP behind the country's successful support system for renewable energy.

I've written too often about this - but in short, let's learn some survival skills and move to Cuba.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some people even seen the bear in me

I'm going to impose a strict "no more polar bears for several months" policy for my blog after this, because this could get silly, but here are some pictures from another email that was forwarded to me.

These are things we can learn from our great white friends up north:

A) Always get your beauty sleep.

B) No half-hearted hugs - bear hugs all the time.

C) Get exercise, and don't neglect your core.

D) Always look your best.

E) Beware of penguins.

F) Because they're annoying little bastards (click on picture to animate).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sustainable Communities

I've mentioned before how much I hate sprawlurbia and how I secretly (or not so secretly) am waiting for peak oil to hit and get all the cars off the road, and force urban planners to prioritize active transportation in their planning.

As many of us already knew, sprawlurbia is killing us in various ways. The obesity and diabetes rates are way up partly due to our culture of sitting in the car for an hour to get to work. As well, as the previously mentioned (see below) Toronto Public Health report states, the pollution caused by automobiles is doing quite a number on us.

To the rescue is the Ontario Provincial Planners Institute. They've just released a report titled Healthy Communities, Sustainable Communities.
The report calls for many things near and dear to a cyclists' heart: they call for an expansion of transportation legislation to include walking and cycling, and not just automobile use, in establishing transportation master plans.

They advocate for arterial roads to contain no more than "two or four private vehicle lanes: if additional travel demand exists, the additional corridor space should be devoted to transit or bicycle lanes."

They ask urban planners to pay "specific attention to reducing use of petroleum-fuelled vehicles in favour of other transportation technologies and modes, and placing greater attention on greening our urban environments with green roofs and trees, especially along heavily travelled thoroughfares."

And finally, as part of their summary, they write "Communities that adopt these planning principles are walkable, cyclable, and transit-supportive, include transit-oriented development, and promote alternatives to the single occupancy vehicle."

Right on - death to single occupancy vehicles, suburban utility vehicles, and urban sprawl.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Public Health in the City of Toronto

Toronto Public Health has just released a report titled Air Pollution Burden of Illness from Traffic in Toronto. My friend Kate from my university donning days worked on this and sent me the link - thanks Kate!

It's a follow up to the 2006 report that I mentioned in this post, and when you add in what the City of Toronto Transportation department knows about The Bicycle and Urban Sustainability, you wonder why things aren't fixed already. Think about it - city research shows that motorized traffic is killing us and that active transportation is the answer. What's the hold up in getting the bike lanes in and taxing car use downtown? Oh yeah, guys like this and this.

This chart comes from the public health report - it shows how the City of York in England prioritizes modes of transportation

Figure 8 illustrates the hierarchy of transportation users implemented by the City of York. In this hierarchy, cities are designed around people, not cars. A sustainable transportation network focuses on active transportation modes first, followed by modes that are vehicle dependent. It is also important to note the emphasis placed on the needs of individuals with mobility problems. These individuals require special attention to enable them to enjoy active modes of transport. Toronto is considering adopting this transportation hierarchy as part of its Walking Strategy, which is currently being developed. In order to be most effective, this priority setting approach needs to be applied to all land use and transport decisions.

The following is from the new report's executive summary:
This study estimates that mortality-related costs associated with traffic
pollution in Toronto are about $2.2 billion. A 30% reduction in vehicle
emissions in Toronto is projected to save 189 lives and result in 900 million
dollars in health benefits. This means that the predicted improvements in
health status would warrant major investments in emission reduction
programs. The emission reduction scenarios modelled in this study are
realistic and achievable, based on a review by the Victoria Transport Policy
Institute of policy options and programs in place in other jurisdictions. Taken
together, implementation of comprehensive, integrated policies and programs
are expected to reduce total vehicle travel by 30 to 50% in a given
community, compared with current planning and pricing practices.
Given there is a finite amount of public space in the city for all modes of
transportation, there is a need to reassess how road space can be used more
effectively to enable the shift to more sustainable transportation modes. More
road space needs to be allocated towards development of expanded
infrastructure for walking, cycling and on-road public transit (such as
dedicated bus and streetcar lanes) so as to accelerate the modal shift from
motor vehicles to sustainable transportation modes that give more priority to
pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.