Thursday, August 11, 2005

Grenades for the hothouse flowers

This morning I was reading the latest issue of National Geographic. There's an article in it about how we will power civilization in the coming years, called After Oil. It makes it plain that there are rough times ahead, but we have some solutions in the works. One of them, probably the one with the best short-term potential, is wind power. The technology already exists. All we have to do is build it.

What amazes me was that there is opposition to it. People in England kvetching that the windmills will spoil the view. Same in Massachusetts. I've heard the similar noise about the handful of ones we have here in Toronto, mostly from the condo crowd... people downtown moaning about how a bank of offshore windmills will spoil the natural view. Pardon me, but aren't these some of the same self-satisfied hothouse flowers who sneer at cars and freeways as they rollerblade to the bike shop so they can go further afield ecologically for their special little coffees and quaint bookstores that only stock tomes printed on hemp? You know, the narcissistic douchebags who think airplane noise is something for other people to suffer as they nix a 50-foot fixed link to the Island Airport while continuing to demand a rapid transit line all the way from Union Station to YYZ? They charge suburbia with being the problem and that the rest of us have to give up our cars and live like ants. But when part of the solution means even a minor inconvience to them, they don't want to be part of it, either. You know, I don't mind the suggestion that my lifestyle is wrong and, in the long run, needs adjustment to some real level of sustainability, half as much as I despise this self-serving, duplicitous hypocrisy. If I eventually have to return to that miserable fucking public transit slog to school and work I endured for ten years, then you assholes can goddamn well put up with a few dozen graceful white pinwheels on the horizon, you know?

We can have a future of wide expanses of solar power harvesters and fields and shorelines gathering the wind, with some minor impact on the vista, or else one where an increasing dependence on dwindling fossil fuels impoverishes us while it devastates those views, until at last our civilization collapses and humans return to lives of subsistence farming, with little or no time to waste looking up at the pretty view. Pick one. You can't have both.

6 comments:

James said...

Well, I'm a downtown type who bikes to the bike shop (on a recubment bike, even) and would definitely like a rapid transit line from Union Station to Pearson -- but I also would love to see more windmills in Toronto and around Ontario.

I think the one at the CNE is not only great from an ecological point of view, but far more visually attractive than any of the condos going up along the waterfront and blocking the view of the lake.

I haven't actually ever heard anyone complain about the CNE one, but I haven't really talked to many people about it either...

There's a (relatively) new windmill up on the Bruce that, on an average spring or fall day, can power everything in the north half of the peninsula. We need more like that!

My mother tours Europe regularly, and windmills are all over there now. Farmers love 'em 'cause they get paid rent on the land they stand on.

Lone Primate said...

This is where we need to focus the matter. I don't see the problem with tall, white, graceful windmills over our shores and green hills. They're a testiment to our technological maturity: the realization that our civilization has to work in concert with the Earth, or it's doomed.

My mother tours Europe regularly, and windmills are all over there now. Farmers love 'em 'cause they get paid rent on the land they stand on.

The article in Nation Geo went on about this. Apparently the Dutch are getting 20% of the electricity from the wind now. That really surprised me. Particularly for a country that small. There was also a graph that shows the EU to be way, way ahead of the US in annual installation of wind-powered megawattage. Once again, Europe leads the pack. Here in Canada, it seems it's oil-rich Alberta who leads. Come on, Ontario; get serious!

Well, I'm a downtown type who bikes to the bike shop (on a recubment bike, even) and would definitely like a rapid transit line from Union Station to Pearson...

Fixed link to the Island Airport first. When I see people downtown putting up with their fair share (especially of light communter business traffic that ought to be flying in and out of the core in the first place), then I'll be willing to give the nod to inflicting the rapid transit system on the suburbanites for the long-haul stuff. Fair's fair.

James said...

Apparently the Dutch are getting 20% of the electricity from the wind now. That really surprised me. Particularly for a country that small.

The advantage the Dutch have is they get a good wind off the North Sea -- remember, Holland is famous for its windmills! They've been doing this sort of thing for centuries.

In Ontario, the wind is less reliable as a source of power.

Fixed link to the Island Airport first.

I don't know that a fixed link (for private cars, as is usually described) is actually necessary. I'd rather see the Island Airport revamped and expanded -- move some of the admin buildings to the mainland, and have a checked-through-passengers-only link to the actual runways on the island. It'd leave more room for runways on the island, too.

(especially of light communter business traffic that ought to be flying in and out of the core in the first place)

No argument there. The Island Airport is woefully underused. Of course, the airport isn't really suitable for reaching anywhere farther than Detroit or Ottawa, but IIRC it *only* serves Ottawa right now.

It's not as if small commuter planes are *that* noisy compared to the usual hubbub downtown!

then I'll be willing to give the nod to inflicting the rapid transit system on the suburbanites for the long-haul stuff.

Not much infliction necessary, though -- there's already a disused rail corridor from just north of the CNE to just SE of the airport that can be converted. Only the end near the airport would actually leave Toronto's borders.

Not to mention that it would help thin the traffic on the 427.

The suggestion I liked best was to convert Red Rocket trolley cars to use the existing rails in the disused corridor, and spiff them up inside to make them more suitable for shuttling flyers. It's quiet, clean, and relatively inexpensive.

There's also been talk of running a bike trail along the same right-of-way, which would be great.

Lone Primate said...

The Island Airport is woefully underused. Of course, the airport isn't really suitable for reaching anywhere farther than Detroit or Ottawa, but IIRC it *only* serves Ottawa right now.

That's what I've been thinking; useful for short runs... Montreal, New York, Boston, Detroit, Ottawa, Philadelphia. For small business trips, it's ideal. We're blessed with the facility of an airport right downtown, and yet we allow a handful of selfish NIMBYites to waste it. It's time these people were put in their place: part of the city, and small part of it... not the whole, neither the more important than the rest of us. They choose to live there, and almost without exception, the airport was there first. I am fed up with mayors and city administrations who gutlessly cater to these spoiled, self-centred people against the greater good.

It's not as if small commuter planes are *that* noisy compared to the usual hubbub downtown!

It really has little to do with noise. That's the smokescreen. It has much more to do, I feel, with the smug insularity of so many downtown dwellers. Having lived long in 905 before moving to 416 to be closer to work, I have had the distinct impression that some of these folks would hardly blush at the idea of some sort of wall that let "outsiders" in to work and spend, and ushered them out again when that was accomplished. How many times did I hear the suggestion that there ought to be tolls on the Gardiner at the Humber? Such people forget that 905 entirely surrounds 416, save for the lake.

The suggestion I liked best was to convert Red Rocket trolley cars to use the existing rails in the disused corridor, and spiff them up inside to make them more suitable for shuttling flyers. It's quiet, clean, and relatively inexpensive.

I don't object to the project or its construction per se; in fact, I favour them. But it can't be one-sided. I'm tired of people between the Humber and Don south of Bloor with the attitude they're "Toronto" and the other four and a half million of us are some sort of lesser citizenry here to service them and their whims. How does a light rail service between Union Station and Pearson benefit Mississaugans, say -- the people whose city houses and services the airport, and who have to put up with the noise? It doesn't, as far as I can see. So why should Mississauga issue the requisite permits, when Rathburn Road remains discontinuous, when the Burnhamthorpe Road bus line is harassed by people living on the last half mile of its route (in Etobicoke), when no move has been made to extend the subway west of Kipling to Square One, much less Oakville Place, as might have and should have been done long ago. What extending the Spadina line to York University, and into the Vaughn industrial park where tens of thousands work? No, I'm in no rush to see one more project that caters to folks downtown until they get their parochial heads out of their own navels.

James said...

That's what I've been thinking; useful for short runs... Montreal, New York, Boston, Detroit, Ottawa, Philadelphia.

I'm not sure it's big enough for Boston or New York flights, but it can definitely be doing more.

How does a light rail service between Union Station and Pearson benefit Mississaugans, say

Reduced traffic, for one. Less smog as a result, as well.

when no move has been made to extend the subway west of Kipling to Square One, much less Oakville Place, as might have and should have been done long ago.

Yes, well, you can thank Mel Lastman and his ill-begotten Sheppard line for that. Had the proposed Eglington line gone in from Younge to Mississauga, there's be a perfect link-up for an Eglington - Square One - Kipling subway loop.

I still don't understand what anybody saw in the Clown Mayor.

What extending the Spadina line to York University, and into the Vaughn industrial park where tens of thousands work?

Toronto's subway is amazingly under-routed for a city of this size.

No, I'm in no rush to see one more project that caters to folks downtown until they get their parochial heads out of their own navels.

The big problem with trading one for the other is that any of these suburban subway project would cost hundreds of times what the proposed downtown-airport light rail link would cost. They aren't really comperable.

Lone Primate said...

How does a light rail service between Union Station and Pearson benefit Mississaugans, say

Reduced traffic, for one. Less smog as a result, as well.


Again: reduced traffic where? The 427 borders Mississauga, but anyone using it to go anywhere in what was Metro is southbound, away from the airport. 416ers using it are heading north. It's not going to help Mississaugans any to see provincial tax dollars help 416ers get in and out of the airport. If it were going to get traffic off the 403 or the QE eastbound, sure. But it won't. The direct benefits to Mississauga and Peel are negligible. But there are, as I pointed out, other improvements that would benefit 905, that have nothing to do with Pearson. This is why I maintain it must be used as a bargaining chip. You want this? Great; we want that. Let's talk turkey. Otherwise, ride the bus.

The smog issue's nice, but I'm not convinced. Opening up the lanes so existing volumes of traffic doesn't idle is what lowers emissions. But here we are in a city that perversely truncated its traffic circle in the late 1960s, eliminating the north-south access (the Spadina Expressway), never completing the eastbound access to the 401 (Scarborough Expressway Gardiner extension), forcing the traffic to the extremes on the 427 and DVP. That shortsightedness is what causes pollution in Toronto, not the lack of an RLT to Pearson.

Yes, well, you can thank Mel Lastman and his ill-begotten Sheppard line for that. Had the proposed Eglington line gone in from Younge to Mississauga, there's be a perfect link-up for an Eglington - Square One - Kipling subway loop.

I'm all for more subways. I'd happily build the Eglinton line, a short Queen line (if only to spare us the quaint, but frustrating and dangerous streetcars there), and extend the routes we already have. But no one who regularly drives the expressways in the east end could ever call the Sheppard line "ill-begotten". Five minutes on the 404 southbound any weekday morning will immediately impress upon the driver the reason for the Sheppard line: it's north of the 401. Eglinton Avenue is not. The bottleneck in the system is the 401-404/DVP interchange. Southbound north of it, and northbound south of it, are Bataan death marches in steel and glass. Southbound 905ers can, and many now do, exit the 404 at Fairview to take the new line to Yonge, and then south. I, myself, would never take a job downtown that required me to use the DVP to get to and from work. Not anymore. The Sheppard line is one more attempt to keep jobs in the downtown core viable. Eglinton Avenue, on the other hand, is south of the interchange, and thus useless to 905s hoping to avoid the snarl as they head downtown. An Eglinton line is also useless to 416ers heading north to Markham and Vaughn because, due the parochial nature of this town, the Yonge subway ends at Finch. Thanks to the invisible Berlin Wall at Steeles (and Etobicoke Creek, and the Rouge), they're stuck in their cars. Given the geography of the transit patterns in the city, the Sheppard line was well-placed. Though frankly, it would have been an even better idea to have built it at Steeles, and extended Yonge to meet it.