We are driving around the massive parking lot, the size of two football fields, and still do not find single spot. There are a few others like us. We look like vultures circling a carcass as we wait to drive into one that frees up. Then our car is blocked by one guy as he stakes his claim on a potential opening. We exchange a few curse words and hand gestures with him. Yes, we are reduced to surfacing the nasty in us. I mentally step back for a moment and examine the scene that I am in the midst of. A car park full of SUVs carrying gallons of gas driving around fat cat drivers like us - while we store all the food that we have eaten as body fat, our limbs protesting to take even a few extra steps from parking a little further away. I see myself as a protagonist in one of those futuristic movies that portray the demise of the universe that is North America. Have you seen "Wally", for eg? Clearly, I am equally to blame aiding and abetting an unsustainable lifestyle. We eventually park, horror of horror, more than 50 feet away and trudge the distance mumbling our displeasure over the Chinese malls, and their overflowing parking lots. Obviously we, like the rest, were there because there were interesting deals to be had and great food to be eaten at the hawker centres. I take photos for my citizenship renewal, feast on spring rolls, mee goreng and tom yam soup and return to the car, smug and contented as a Cheshire cat, all those noble thoughts about sustainability forgotten in the temporary amnesia brought on by the wonderful food.
Then I wake up this morning to a winter wonderland. I don my warm clothes and take a walk. The beauty of this gentle land simply takes my breath away. I even forget that my socks are not warm enough. My daughter is on the phone from chilly London saying "we are going out for dim sum". I know there is no Chinese eatery close to her so there will be lots of walking and public transit involved in getting her to her destination. And I suddenly turn melancholy. I cannot get to a dim sum place by walk or reasonable transit. Correction: I am not incented to. You could turn around and ask "why the hell do you not live closer to public transit and why the big house?" Because I love living among trees (a Canadian luxury) and, more to the point, I am not punished for sustaining my current lifestyle. The leaders of this nation had great foresight when they built our Trans Canada railway line. But they stopped with that. They gave in to an aggressive automobile lobby. Or else they would have incorporated trains as an essential component of zoning - just as they have zoned for hospitals and schools? Then as cities grew so would the railway lines have, aka London. Then we would all be milling about active, communing, experiencing this great land as it should be? Why, at the risk of being somewhat simplistic, we would not be pouring that money into the black hole that is our healthcare system, treating disease, if we had more active, fit people and cleaner air? The car lobby really had nothing to fear and we could have placated them with impassioned homilies about the vastness of our nation and places to discover by car? When driving is for pleasure, we would probably have planned more road trips and taken fewer plane rides?
At the end of the day, we all have to start somewhere and need to collectively reflect on where and how. We have the attention of our residents, who see examples of sustainable living when they travel overseas. Is it any surprise that Citibike, that bike-share program in New York City, fully sponsored by Citigroup, even has "Occupy Wall Street" member subscribers? Policy makers and politicians cannot dither anymore and must take the bull by the horns. Short of changes to the law, I don't see ways to bring about changes in our collective behaviour! Ok, ok I will begin to modify mine!!
I have decided to introduce common themes for my blogs so this is the first of my Sunday morning reflections - usually the time when I am inspired to write - after my morning yoga!