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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Archive for December 2017

The war by cars

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It’s Christmas markets time again!  All over Germany, people are sipping hot mulled wine and munching on lebkuchen (and not just Germany; there’s even one here in Vancouver).

The city of Bochum, in the Ruhr area of Germany, made the news with its new decorations for its Christmas market: giant bags wrapped like presents all around the market.

Each of these bags, which contain one tonne of pellets, have been placed there for security reasons.  They are temporary bollards, obstacles to prevent cars or trucks from driving into the crowded market area.  Nobody complains; the truck attack on the Berlin Christmas market last year, which killed twelve people, is very much on everyone’s mind.

Whenever a city takes measures to control traffic, lays down bike paths, or creates pedestrian zones, there is always an outcry about some sort of “war on cars”.  It may be salutary to remember that, for many unfortunate people, the opposite is true: a war by cars.

Just this year, terrorists or deranged people (or both) used cars or trucks to crash into people in Jerusalem (4 killed, 10 wounded on January 7), London (4 dead, at least 50 injured, March 22), Stockholm (5 dead, 14 injured on April 7), London again (twice; 8 dead, 48 injured on June 3; 1 dead, 9 injured on June 19), Levallois-Perret (France; august 9, 6 injured), Charlottesville (1 dead and 19 injured on Aug 12), Barcelona and nearby Cambris (two attacks on August 17, leaving 14 dead and 125 injured), New York (October 31).  This, of course, on the heels last year’s Berlin Christmas market attack (12 dead, 46 injured, on December 19), the 11 people wounded on November 28 in Columbus Ohio, and possibly the very worse, the attack in Nice on the Bastille day revelers (86 dead, over 300 wounded, on July 14).

Canada is not immune: on October 1 of this year, a man plowed into pedestrians in Edmonton in a rented van, injuring five, while a car attack in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec left one dead and one wounded on October 20, 2014.

And that, of course, is only one way in which cars have been used as instruments of mass murder.  Car bombs (common enough that an acronym, VBIED, has been coined) have been used most recently in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria; before then, Northern Ireland, Vietnam, Algeria, the United States…the list is long.  Mike Davis reviewed the history of the car bomb in Buda’s Wagon.

Then again, cars are dangerous, criminal intent or not.  Last year over 37,000 people died in car crashes in the US alone; that’s more than 100 people killed every day on average.  The total, since the US has kept statistics, is over 3.6 million killed, with an even larger number of injured people.  In Canada there are between 2800 to 2900 people killed by cars every year; worldwide, there was over one and a quarter million fatalities in 2015.

We call those “accidents” – and true enough, the great majority of those fatalities are not the result of criminal intent.  But it remains that cars are dangerous, and that cars and crowds shouldn’t mix.  Drivers may talk about war on cars, but the situation could be better described as war by cars.

That’s why I like what Bochum has done: portable bollards, bean bags wrapped as Christmas presents.  Bollards matter, and if they look festive, so much the better.  They delineate a space with a message that says: here, don’t worry, you can relax.  It’s your space.  Walk around, take your time.

Even better if they are permanent – and attractive.  Bollards can be planters, statues, dolmens, water hydrants, bike racks, lampposts, places to sit – whatever.  I’ll even put up with ugly concrete blocks.  But let’s reclaim our space.

Written by enviropaul

December 15, 2017 at 3:33 pm

About Site C…

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A map of the Site C project, with the existing Williston Reservoir to the west.

Les bras m’en tombent.  Meaning, my arms fell off as a result.  That’s what one says when the news are so bad that you don’t know how to react, or have lost the ability to react.  And, well, that was my initial reaction.

So, don’t expect any in-depth analysis.  But I’ve compiled a set of reactions from others, for your reading pleasure.  I won’t even embed the links, that’s how deflated I feel.

The Tyee does a nice job summarizing the situation, at

Sierra Club of BC, David Suzuki Foundation, CPAWS, BC Wildlife all chimed in (see below, at the end of the post), all united in disapproval.  Sierra Club also started a letter writing campaign, here at

Predictably, there is backlash among NDP supporters (see ) and as predictably, First Nations are expected to challenge the decision in court, which will likely add delays and cost (and who knows, may actually win.  See

Andrew Weaver of the Green Party talks about a disheartening decision

Judith Sayers talks about deep anger, deep disappointment, feeling foolish in having hoped that this government might be different.  Read her whole statement here:

Others report that the decision may harm BC’s credit rating, as well as violating basic human rights (See

A few people counter that this isn’t so bad because the power will be needed, especially as the economy decarbonizes; for instance, how about selling the power to Alberta?  Well, Alberta just announced a new auction for renewable power, and guess what, it will come cheaper that a dam and a large transmission line.  See

I want to leave a voice to a few commenters on Facebook.  Sierra Club’s Galen Armstrong posted
Thanks to everyone who has been fighting (in many different ways) to protect the Peace River Valley. If you need something to do right now, you can donate to West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation. These Nations have announced that they will fight for their Treaty rights in court:  You can also donate to the Peace Valley Landowner Association — they have put SO much into this fight: You can also donate to and we will continue to fight. Most importantly, keep raising your voice and don’t give up hope.

My KPU colleague Andrew Frank, who has been very active with first nations issues, posted

I am deeply disappointed, appalled and angry with the BC NDP’s decision to proceed with the Site C dam, which would trample First Nations’ treaty rights and drown thousands of hectares of BC’s most productive farmland, all for a project that experts say is too expensive and perhaps not even needed relative to future energy demand.  What I find most galling are Mr. Horgan’s false promises and meaningless words to honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and to begin a new, respectful relationship with First Nations. This dam represents the kinds of human rights violations that belong to a previous dark chapter in our province’s history, one that I hoped we were moving away from.

To hear Mr. Horgan’s explanation, we need to complete Site C for financial reasons in order to provide better childcare, healthcare and schooling to our (non-Indigenous) children and families (in the south of the province). Some are now calling the Peace River valley and its communities a sacrifice zone, and I agree with them. By continuing with Site C, the BC NDP is choosing to continue making it one. On a hopeful note, some of the affected First Nations are launching new lawsuits against the government to protect their rights and livelihoods, and others are vowing to continue fighting the project. These are efforts we need to support in solidarity.

And I like Stephen Rees’ post.  He simply gave a link to the logical fallacy called “the sunken cost fallacy” – a great article, and very eloquent on its own.  It can be found at

A friend reposted a post by one Howard Breen, to whom I will leave the last word:

Massive disappointment.  The party has the backbone of a chocolate éclair when it comes to supporting indigenous sovereignty rights on unceded lands.


The NGO statements are at:

Written by enviropaul

December 11, 2017 at 8:14 pm