Thursday, August 04, 2005

A (not so) Modest Proposal

Recently I have done a fair bit of thinking about the need for environmental -based changes in our lifestyle. I have decided that most of us (including myself) find it very difficult to make such changes. We may be afraid of the financial cost to ourselves, or the cost to our economy, or just too comfortable in the 'normal'. But we need a push, something to encourage/force us to make change. Such a push could be financial (nothing causes people to change as fast as the effect on their wallet) or regulatory. Therefore I suggest the following possibilities:
  1. Raise taxes --gradually doubling them-- on all gasoline sales. Do this by assigning all new tax dollars not to road repair or to general government revenue but rather to a special fund to improve mass transit systems and to provide funds to support the development of better vehicles. Mass transit systems to be supported are not only commuter based, within cities, but also for travel between communities and provinces. This should help people stop driving as much (and when people complain remind them that North American enjoy the cheapest gas around).
  2. Declare large areas of our cities "car-free zones", areas where the only motorized transport allowed is mass transit -- no personal vehicles or taxis.
  3. Set mandatory standards for fuel efficiency. Any vehicle not meeting these standards will be assessed a special tax upon its sale (such tax revenues to go into the same pot as gas taxes in #1)
  4. Regulate thermostats for home/commercial heating and cooling so that air conditioners can not be set lower than 23C and furnaces no higher than 21C. For people who have a medical need to exceed these limits a special program will be set up requiring medical documentation before the thermostat can be reprogrammed.
  5. Place a special tax on vans, SUV's, pick-ups, and large cars to compensate for their lower fuel efficiency (this is an extension of #3). Offer rebates to people choosing more efficient and/or alternative fuelled vehicles
  6. Raise electricity rates.
  7. Set aside a portion of funds from electricity rates to: support the development of more efficient appliances, provide rebates to people replacing older appliances or replacing appliance use with other means such as clotheslines.
  8. Cease providing across the board support to business. Instead only offer incentives (loan guarantees, tax breaks etc) to businesses pledging to do business in a less impactful way and/or create more efficient products. Should they not live up to the pledge they will be responsible to repay the amount of the incentives.
  9. Provide more funding to initiatives such as recycling programs and second-hand product sales (reusing).
  10. Mandate environmental education at every grade level in the public school system.

Maybe not all are doable. Certainly most are politically untenable. BUt to make change in the scale that it needs to be made needs leadership. Leadership does what is right because it is right, not because it is based on which way the wind is blowing.

1 comment:

  1. I could jump aboard this one.

    It would be intersting to see, though, how a mass transit system could be developed for small (in population) but large (in geographic area) towns. Say... Marathon. Or Kirkland Lake.

    B/p - Richard