Tuesday 21st November 2017

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Posts tagged ‘pei’

How green are their ridings?

July 13th, 2017

A vehicle-deprived vagabond travels through Canada’s Green Party stronghold

by Greg Klein

A vehicle-deprived vagabond travels through Canada’s Green Party stronghold

A Cowichan Valley boat ramp parking lot shows the region’s preferred
mode of transport. Those tow hitches aren’t for canoes or kayaks, either.

 

The traffic’s fast and furious. That’s alarmingly apparent as you risk crossing the road to any of the locally famous caffeineries after perusing the locally produced arts, crafts and food tempting visitors at Salt Spring Saturday Market. This is Ganges, a charming town in Saanich North and the Islands, one of three ridings that awarded the balance of power to the Greens in last May’s British Columbia election. But it’s unmistakeably car country.

Green MLAs will hold considerable influence in B.C.’s legislature as long as they can prop up the New Democratic Party minority government. Part of Canada’s Green power base, Saanich North and the Islands nearly coincides with the federal constituency of Green MP Elizabeth May and forms part of a trio of nearby provincial ridings that elected one incumbent and two new Green MLAs.

By comparison the rest of Canada has just two Green MLAs (one each in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and zero MPs.

A vehicle-deprived vagabond travels through Canada’s Green Party stronghold

B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver represents
a beautiful but largely car-dependent suburb.

A nice spring afternoon in this Salt Spring Island town notwithstanding, Ganges hosts many more people behind the wheel than on foot. And they seem to be in one hell of a hurry. In their defence, some residents say Salt Spring has Canada’s highest proportion of EV ownership.

Speaking to CBC, one island dweller divulged unofficial data showing “111 electric cars [out of 10,640 people, over half of them old enough to drive], when statistically in Canada we should only have five.” Maybe, but the noise of this little town’s hustle and bustle suggests overwhelming loyalty to fossil fuels.

Like the other islands in Green MLA Adam Olsen’s constituency, Salt Spring’s linked to the outside world mostly by B.C. Ferries. To the frustration of foot passengers, the provincially owned company typically locates its terminals in out-of-the-way spots to provide plenty of parking space. One of the riding’s biggest employers, B.C. Ferries normally makes vehicle ownership a job requirement for employees at its terminals.

To the further frustration of the car-less, B.C. Ferries schedules sync poorly with those of B.C. Transit, the provincial purveyor of municipal and regional bus service. It offers very occasional service on Salt Spring and none on the riding’s other islands.

 

Stroll along Oak Bay Avenue or any other Oak Bay-Gordon Head main drag and you’ll probably notice drivers exercising an un-Salt Spring km/h restraint. Nevertheless cars far outnumber pedestrians in this suburban Victoria riding bordering Saanich North. That’s despite this being a highly walkable neighbourhood with lots of convenient shops and services. There’s even, by Canadian standards, reasonably good bus service. This very affluent turf constitutes the domain of B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver. Once again, vehicle-dependency seems to be taken for granted.

Like some of his party’s Salt Spring supporters, Weaver is said to tool around in an electric car. Maybe, like most politicians, he also takes token transit trips for political bragging rights. Of course the pyramid of CO2-reducing moral superiority builds from a car-dependent base to greater heights by ditching fossil-fuel engines for EVs, ditching EVs for transit, and ditching transit for walking or cycling. But the very apex of GHG-avoidance, according to one recent study, would be ditching parenthood. It turns out that babies—little scoundrels that they are—put other Big Oil lackeys to shame with their GHG profligacy.

That would seem to take the low-birthrate Western world off the hook, placing almost the entire climate-change blame on emerging societies. But the B.C. Greens’ push for free childcare and payments to stay-at-home parents seems irresponsibly averse to the big issue of our time.

 

Two bucks gets you a B.C. Transit ride all the way from the small Vancouver Island city of Duncan to Lake Cowichan. This weekend wayfarer took the trip on Canada Day, as one of only two passengers throughout the 29-kilometre, 45-minute trip traversing much of Green MLA Sonia Furstenau’s Cowichan Valley riding. The bus careens down Cowichan Lake Road, roughly parallel to much-busier Highway 18 and presumably the route that walkers and cyclists would take.

Would take. If there were any. There pretty much weren’t.

Big vehicles, mostly pickup trucks, dominate the town of Lake Cowichan. How can this Green valley reconcile this anti-Green lifestyle? Not easily. Still, even more than in Oak Bay, traffic moves slowly, at a relaxed rate that the average Salt Spring Green might achieve only with a heavy dose of environmentally correct Ativan. Downtown Lake Cow’s quite the experience actually, like witnessing a monster truck extravaganza in slow motion and with the volume turned way down.

Residential development sprawls about 15 klicks northwest to the former mill town of Youbou, now home to some fairly recently built large homes for fairly affluent people. Walking seems limited to very short distances to or from a vehicle. The one cyclist I saw looked as conspicuous as the magnificent elk ambling by.

Leave Furstenau’s constituency past Youbou and the road suddenly changes into a rough-hewn dust-cloud topsy-turvy gravel route with potholes big enough to swallow Elon Musk’s next Great Big Idea. For those residents who might drive EVs, that pretty much limits their egress to the road back to Duncan.

 

So, if the typically Canadian vehicle-based lifestyle of B.C.’s Green ridings seems to contradict Green values, what drives—oops, shoulda said “inspires”—their ballot box choice? Did voters not consider their own reliance on vehicles and all the resources used to manufacture, maintain and fuel them? Or did voters just want to send a message to B.C.’s two cynicism-inducing establishment parties? That would be a reassuring thought, one that might restore a smidgeon of faith in our troubled species.

Nevertheless, these ridings make nice places to visit. Parts of them have bus service too, but you’ll have to check out the schedules for yourself. Not likely you’ll find many locals who use transit.

Elon Musk’s hidden agenda

April 1st, 2017

As he makes sci-fi reality, what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

by Greg Klein

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

A pioneer ponders her new planet, but the truth is down here. (Image: SpaceX)

 

Just two days ago—March 30—Elon Musk pulled off yet another stunning techno-coup by launching a pre-used rocket then landing it intact, ready for further re-use. Not only does that rate as a truly historic achievement, but it marks another milestone in his audacious plan to colonize Mars. Just what drives this guy?

His CV is phenomenal. Musk started with Zip2 and PayPal, went on to build the world’s most coveted electric cars, then supplemented them with a country-wide network of fast recharging stations and a growing empire of Gigafactories that he’ll likely merge with his unprecedented vertically integrated Solarcity green energy utility/storage battery company.

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

Whether with awe, apprehension or impatience, the first
Martians-to-be prepare to disembark at their new home.
(Image: SpaceX)

He’s actually booked tourists for a 2018 around-the-moon cruise. He’s pushing extraordinarily high-speed, long-distance pneumatic tube travel, musing about Internet access in outer space and working to wire people’s brains to computers.

Yes, he loses money on every Tesla he sells and a couple of his Falcon 9 rockets blew to smithereens. But Musk’s stunning success record would seem to make science fiction plausible. Has he finally strained credibility with the Mars colony? And, again, just what drives this guy?

As to the first question, a surprising number of experts consider the idea viable. Musk’s SpaceX, already in the business of transporting cargo and satellites into orbit, plans unmanned Mars trips in 2018 and 2020. The company has modelled craft that would initially ferry 100 people at a time on an 80-day voyage for about US$200,000 each. Later ships with greater capacity and a 30-day trip time would cut fares dramatically. Upwards of 10,000 return voyages within 40 to 100 years would give Mars an Earthling diaspora numbering one million people, enough to create a self-sustaining civilization, he claims. Necessities like air, water, food and radiation protection can all be realized, he insists.

The visionary CEO sees the first colonists arriving well within a decade.

But why does he strive for this, when he has his hands more than full with other soaring ambitions? And, with all the possible pitfalls, why risk capping a phenomenal career with monumental failure?

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

No symbolism is too obvious
for a little country.
(Image: SpaceX)

Musk speaks of our eventual extinction on Earth. But according to battery expert Raymond Tylerson, Musk’s real motivation lies in his need for resources. They’re not the extraterrestrial kind sought by those who would mine the heavens. They’re right here on Earth.

Almost completely overlooked in the mania about the battery minerals graphite, cobalt and lithium has been one essential ingredient, points out Tylerson. That’s lithium’s near-namesake, lithuanium.

“For every bushel of graphite, cobalt and lithium that goes into these suckers, you need only one demi-iota of lithuanium,” he explains. “That doesn’t sound like much until you realize it’s absolutely the most scarce commodity on the planet.”

Moreover, as its moniker memorializes, it’s found in only one place—the uniquely lithuanium-lush lithology of Lithuania. That gives the little country a lockhold on the most critical mineral of all.

Emma Rothstein recognizes the danger. A psychologist who specializes in nationwide borderline personality disorders, she says, “For its entire existence, Lithuania’s been pushed around by big country bullies. Now it’s fighting back. Make no mistake, this little country has big, big ambitions. It wants to achieve on an inter-galactic scale the domination it can’t possibly achieve on Earth. With their monopoly on lithuanium, Lithuanians have forced Musk into their service.”

Classified documents released by the Transparency Foundation confirm that Lithuania has guaranteed Musk exclusive rights to lithuanium provided he carries out the country’s expansionist agenda.

Not only might Musk be the one person most likely to succeed at interplanetary travel, but Lithuanians might be the one people most likely to succeed at interplanetary colonization.

“I mean, who the hell else would want to go?” asks Rothstein. “That 80-day trip would be worse than a group package vacation. It brings to mind the saying that hell is other people. By the time they’d arrive the colony would be screwed because they’d all hate each other’s guts. But not so with Lithuanians. They’ve always co-operated with each other despite the fact that they’ve always hated each other’s guts.”

But Musk faces formidable competition, she adds. “I recognized that as soon as NASA reported it was growing potatoes in a Mars-like environment. It was so obviously just another outcome of Little Country Syndrome.”

This little country is actually a province, tiny Prince Edward Island.

“Imagine what it’s been like, to start off as the birthplace of Canadian confederation only to find yourself by far the puniest province with the puniest population and an economy based almost entirely on potatoes. Puny PEI and its puny potato-pulling people carry an inter-galactic grudge matching that of Lilliputian Lithuania.

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

Musk: Could there be
something different about him?

“Don’t underestimate these pushy little people,” she warns. “They’ve already taken over NASA. Mars might be next.”

So who’s poised to win the burgeoning battle for the universe? “My money’s on anyone backed by Musk,” declares Kyle McCormick, a professor of sociological astronomy. “He doesn’t just talk about an interplanetary species. He comes from one himself. You don’t think he accomplished all that with Earthling expertise, do you? Listen to his speech, look at his eyes—he’s more alien than Mr. Spock.”

Then what’s he doing here?

“He just had to get away from his own planet,” McCormick responds. “Musk considers it a really tiresome, insufferably do-good crunchy granola save-the-endangered-whatever environmentally superior place. He’s sick to death of all that clean energy crap. Once he saves up enough trillions he intends to buy the entire U.S.A., pave it and compel everyone to drive around all day in huge dangerous noisy stinking gas-guzzling vehicles.

“He wants to turn America into one big monster truck extravaganza. And fossil fuels will be mandatory.”

 

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