Tag Archives: environment

Changing the World Isn’t Easy. Unless You Make it Easy

By Jason Menard

Here are two statements that, through my experience, I’ve found to be true: “There are many things we can do to make the world better”; and “People (substitute the word society if you want to be kind) are lazy.”

Because of the latter, many things that comprise the former don’t get done. And until society’s advocates wrap their heads around the reality of the latter, they’re doomed to frustration and failure.

Some may take offense to the word lazy. And that’s OK – feel free to substitute the word of your choice in that sentence. You can use complacent, set-in-their-ways, apathetic… it all comes down to the fact that people don’t want to change – even if that change is good for them. Continue reading

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Finding the Right Route

By Jason Menard

So, the naysayers opine, who would rather trade in their car for a bus? Who are these people that will embrace the London Transit Commission’s commitment to more efficient service, eschewing their vehicles for public transport?

I’m one. I’ve done it before and loved it. The only reason I don’t do it now is practicality. Well, that and I love my family, so I’d like to see them sometime instead of laboriously meandering through the streets of London under the flickering lights of an overhead advertisement.

However, for any public transit venture to be successful, the principles need to stop thinking green and focus more on the black and white.

When we moved to London from Montreal a few years ago the first thing I did was check out the public transit situation. That way, I figured, I could take the bus to work, which would allow my wife to have use of the family car. But there was a problem with that equation – something that refused to allow it to add up. Time.

Simply put, it didn’t make sense for me to take the bus. When I lived in Montreal, I commuted across the island from my St-Laurent residence to the downtown core or the Old Port. What would have taken me an hour-and-a-half by car, fighting through gridlock and inflated parking prices, only took me 15 minutes by public transit.

That’s it. It made sense. For just over $50, I obtained a pass that would allow me to ride the bus, Métro (underground subway), and commuter train. That monthly outlay more than made up for the amount of money I would have spent during the same time frame on gas and parking (the cheaper rates around where I worked went for about $100 a month).

And while the money was nice, it was the time that was the key. I could leave work by 4:30 and be home easily before 5:00. I could spend time with my wife and kids, and all was good. Devoid of road rage, I came home rested, relaxed, and in a much better mood than had I driven home through rush-hour traffic, swearing all the while, and watching my blood pressure rise during a twice-daily commute.

An ancillary benefit was that I read more than I had in years! Before I had a hard time finding the time to read. When I was on the bus or train, I had all the time in the world to quietly enjoy a book.

But here, in London, it’s the opposite. A 10-minute commute by car takes over an hour-and-a-half. There are multiple stop-overs and a significant walk involved. It’s hardly an incentive to commute.

And people have to stop focusing on the environmental incentives for taking public transit. We get it. We don’t care. If we haven’t changed by now for that reason, we won’t. Stop thinking green and focus on the black and white – what’s in it for me? Make it convenient. Make it affordable. And make it effective, and we will come.

The Bus Rapid Transit system is a good start for debate. However, I don’t think we need to investigate bus lanes and the like right now. The city’s not big enough for that. The one thing that would improve service is to improve the buses’ routes and schedule.

Straight. Up and down. Intersecting routes. And a bus every 10 minutes during rush hour on major routes. That’s it. Part of the problem solved.

Our public transit system tries to be everything to everyone. Routes meander through subdivisions, in an attempt to ensure that everyone can get where they want to go. But usually the fastest way to get anywhere is in a straight line. We have major arteries in this city, let’s use them.

A bus running every 10 minutes up and down major east-west arteries like Dundas, Commissioners, Hamilton/Horton, Southdale, Oxford, and Fanshawe Park Road, and north-south routes such as Wellington, Wharncliffe, Wonderland, Richmond, and Adelaide should be the basis of any system. Then you start adding the ancillary buses off of these major routes. Less-frequent buses up streets like Exeter, Baseline, Bradley, and the like would help make the grid more accessible.

Prioritize the rush hours. On these key routes buses running every seven to 10 minutes between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., and 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. would improve service.

Sure, it may take more than 10 minutes to get to work for me, but I’d sacrifice an extra 10-15 minutes to leave the car at home. After all, while some people may cling to their vehicle as a status symbol, personally it doesn’t do me much good sitting in the parking lot of my office for eight hours a day.

If London really wants to grow and be the city it thinks it is – or at least the city it thinks it can become – then we have to make an effort. After all, if we want to attract the masses, we need mass transit to get them where they want to go.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Environmental Paralysis

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that you have to walk before you can run. So doesn’t it go without saying that we need to be shown a little affection before we can fully go out and hug every tree we see?

A recent study predicted that, due to global warming’s effect on Himalayan glaciers, southeast Asia and China could be facing a devastating lack of drinking water within 50 years. We’re now also being told that the devastation caused by hurricanes in the American South-East is partly our fault, due to increased water temperatures caused by – you guessed it – global warming.

It seems that no matter when a natural disaster strikes, there are always willing environmentalists ready to jump on the pulpit and start wagging their fingers at us. It’s a morbid game of “I told you so,” and it does nothing to help the actual problems that exist in this world. While some environmentalists feel we’ve been burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the problem, the reality is that we’re weighed down by the enormity of the issues.

In general, people want to do the right thing. We all want to leave this world a better place for our children and grandchildren. We all want to save the environment, breathe cleaner air, and make a commitment to a greener life.

However, we find it hard to move when the weight of the entire world is on our shoulders. For years, environmentalists have been stating that we need to make drastic, wholesale lifestyle changes to save the world from human-inflicted doom. But, instead of sparking us into action, statements like this end up overwhelming us with fear and paralyzing us into inaction.

Worst-case scenarios don’t help. They only serve to make us feel powerless to make a difference – they make our efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle, and be better global citizens seem insignificant.

The Utopian world that the most rabid environmentalists see as being the solution doesn’t exist. Our society isn’t set up for it. We’re too dependent on fossil fuels. We’re too enamoured with convenience and disposable items. To cut society off cold turkey would paralyze it.

So, what we need to practice what we preach. If one message has come forth from the assortment of telethons and fund-raisers we’ve been exposed to over the past little while is that every small action adds up. Individually we can only do so much, but when our actions are multiplied exponentially by all Canadians, and then all the citizens of the world, the impact we can have is astounding.

But we don’t hear that. We never hear the positives of our actions. Our current efforts at living a better and greener lifestyle have been met with a collective, “Yeah, but…” from the environmental community. As earnest and honest as they may be when forecasting global doom and gloom, what our environmental advocates are missing is that we, as average citizens, need positive reinforcement. We need to be encouraged with tangible results for our actions. And we don’t need to be chastised for the sins of our society’s past.

No matter how small the effort we make as individuals may be on a global scale, we need to know that it’s having an effect – even if it’s an infinitesimal impact. That way, when we see the results of our actions, we’ll be encouraged to do even more. When our baby steps are acknowledged, it will give us the drive to work ourselves up to a full-scale run.

We need that organically grown carrot dangled before us to make us strive for greater things. We’ve seen what power society wields when it comes together in a common cause. Whether it’s been Tsunami relief efforts, or the overwhelming funding coming in for those impacted by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, we’ve seen how each and every dollar counts. Yet, nowhere has there been a person chastising us for not donating enough. Simply put, every dollar counts.

That attitude of communal support and encouragement needs to be extended to the environmental world. Instead of doomsday predictions and earnest declarations of impending doom – no matter how true they may be – the point remains that to mobilize our society you have to engage its belief in the fact that it can make a difference. Just as every dollar counts, so too should every recycled can and every time you choose to walk to the store instead of drive matter!

Because, when we’re told that all of our current efforts have gone for naught, it makes us want to throw up our hands in defeat – and that’s when we all lose.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved