Do you ever feel like you're spinning your wheels on the road to infinity? Don't worry. You're not alone. It probably happens to everybody at one time or another.
That's the best time to take a break, to surround yourself with a few of your favourite people and to celebrate with Thanksgiving the things you love most about your life. Earlier this week my heart sank after a conversation with someone who makes a killing mining for the energy sector here in Canada. He absolutely refuses to believe in climate change. His premise? He thinks that climate change is a farce because Al Gore is a hypocrite. He takes exception to my opinion that our first world governments work harder for big business' bottom line than they do for the very citizens who elect them. He vehemently denied that the fossil fuel industry receives any subsidies whatsoever, (!) claiming that the subsidies all go to sustainable energy companies instead. He then boasted that he makes a killing shorting those very companies on the stock markets. Even as my jaw hit the floor, he accused me of being naive, and ridiculous.
Ok. I will admit that I am rather gullible at times, but really?! To deny climate change in this day and age seems absolute madness. I had heard that there were still a few stubbornly oblivious people out there, nay-saying the evidence, but didn't think I personally knew any of them, and I certainly didn't expect to find them amongst the leaders of industry. But it isn't really surprising, is it? Somebody elected our war-on-the-environment Prime Minister, and it follows that his greatest supporters should be the very people who gobble gobble up the planet's treasured resources, and profit most from his anti-environmental stance.
It makes sense that Canada's energy industry, with its prehistoric policies, should be governed by a phalanx of human turkeys, fossils all... and it IS in keeping with Canadian history that a very few people should benefit from the destruction of a long-standing, balanced and healthy environment. I despair sometimes, to think of the price we are about to pay for such short-sighted thinking. But despair is not a good place to operate from. So what's a girl to do?
What is it about power that corrupts so absolutely? Why are such a large proportion of the rich and powerful so woefully lacking in moral fibre? The man I had that ever so depressing conversation with actually bragged to me that he paid $1.3 million in taxes last year, and went on to lament that fact, griping particularly about the amount of money paid to the first nations people. Personally, I would rejoice to be earning enough income that my contribution to the economy was by necessity so large, but not him. He told me that he intends to sell his houses here, spend a fair few million on a swanky place in Singapore, and relocate there so that he never has to pay tax back into Canada ever again. He was dead chuffed with himself and his cunning plan. And this is a man who was last year's "Man of the Year," according to the Canadian mining industry's flagship publication. I couldn't believe the things I'd heard, yet a recording of our conversation confirmed every sad and sorry word.
What on EARTH is wrong with us??
Bucky Fuller said that there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and the reason he is right is that civilization itself is an accurate portrayal of the sum of humanity's state of mind. So the beliefs we collectively hold are fully manifest in our cities and states. Our energy policies reflect a bizarre belief that economies must continually grow in order to be deemed healthy, and that we should constantly, endlessly gobble gobble everything in sight. We are all operating under the mandate that we must consume, consume, consume. The fact that cyclists are almost universally held in contempt is a reflection of our collective belief that a car-centric society is actually a good thing, something to be prized, aspired to, and that somehow, ridiculously, the bicycle undermines it. Never mind that it really doesn't take a genius to figure out that communities built round cars create a perfect storm of obesity and disease.
Sometimes it's hard not to feel as if I'm caught in an endless loop of danger, judgment, and misunderstanding. Last summer, I was cycling up Spanish Banks hill on NW Marine drive, when a woman drove by me within a mere few inches of my bike, laying on the horn, startling, and scaring me. She was travelling well over the speed limit, and after she passed me, she did the very same thing to a cyclist riding a few hundred yards in front of me. I called the police, because I felt threatened. I thought that she had broken the law in refusing to allow me safe passage on the road. I gave her licence plate number to the officer who returned my call, and he later disclosed that he was very surprised when she freely admited to strafing me, hand on horn. The officer promised then me that she received a stern warning, and would be ticketed. I was satisfied, believing that no one else would suffer the terrifying effects of her road rage. A few weeks later, however, that officer's commander called me back again, and said that the woman would not be receiving a ticket, because I was supposed to be riding on the sidewalk on that stretch of road.
|Barb Morris via the CBC|
Cyclist David Dunnison measured the sidewalk width to be 72 cm in some sections. Provincial guidelines state that a path with a concrete barrier and shared pedestrian-cycling traffic must be at least 2.5 metres wide. This particular path falls more than a little short, don't you think? And that's the thing. As long as we collectively agree that a motorist's right to speed with impunity supercedes everybody else's right to safe passage, we will continue to have conflicts on the road, and we will continue to see unnecessary fatalities. On the day that woman threatened me with her car, there were dozens of pedestrians on the path, so that my presence there would not have been welcome, nor indeed even safe - for any of us. There were certainly far fewer cars, and in fact, there were none coming down the hill when she chose to make her hatred known. Instead of passing me safely, she indulged her road rage and endangered my life for no good reason whatsoever, and the police chose not to hold her accountable. Why?! And how many other cyclists have suffered terror at her hands?
Why do people behave like cars have a greater right to the road than anybody else? Roads have been around since time immemorial, and bikes have certainly been here longer than motor cars. Motorists are responsible for countless injuries and deaths all over the world, yet rarely are they called to task for the lives they ruin. Why not? What is it in our collective consciousness which allows for such wholesale manslaughter? Good grief. If so many people died of any other singular cause, you know that we would stand together to make it stop.
Why? Is it merely an extension of our willfully blind energy policies and our capitalistic, grow at all costs economies? Or is it because we are all culpable? I mean, really, who hasn't driven too fast on occasion? Who amongst us has never gotten behind the wheel when they were too tired to drive, or too distraught? Which one of us has never, ever opened their car door without shoulder checking first to ensure nobody was there? But then again, maybe we are finally waking up. In Ontario, a motorist caught driving whilst on their cell phone faces a $1000 fine, though in BC, the fine is less than a fifth of that. But it isn't really that hard to mandate safer driving habits, and to enforce the rules in such a way as to create safer streets. And deep down inside, you know that the time has come to make it so.
It's not just a pipe dream. Bucky nailed it - you know it's true. Once we agree upon a logical course of action, nothing can stop the march of progress - even if it does revolve around two beautiful wheels.