Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pushing the Automobile as an Environmental Savior

One of Canada's largest daily national newspapers, The Toronto Globe and Mail, seems to be on a campaign, for whatever reason, intended to convince it's readers that the automobile, not public transit, is a solution to the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Over recent weeks that newspaper's Report on Business has been deriding public transit and praising the automobile for everything from lowering traffic congestion to saving the planet from the evils of climate change. One of the high priests of this insidious campaign seems to be columnist Neil Reynolds. His latest column (Statscan public transit spin is out of control) is a thinly veiled critique of the new report called Commuting Patterns, from Statistics Canada.

This report reviews the statistical changes in the use of public transit in a cross section of major Canadian cities. Those changes have, unfortunately, been minor by any measure and continue to reflect the poor usage and support of public transit in this country. Reynolds seems to be suggesting that the low ridership on public transit systems is, in fact, a reason that they should be dropped and the financing that is wasted on them should be diverted instead to even more development of highways and automobile infrastructure.

The consistency of these types of attacks by The Toronto Globe and Mail in general and Neil Reynolds in particular makes one wonder what automobile company or auto industry association is paying the tab or pressuring for this spurious and patently ridiculous series of columns. If they were being put out by the small newspaper in my hometown with its circulation of under 1,000 I would be inclined to laugh it off and maybe write a scathing letter to the editor. But this is a large national newspaper with a circulation of a million and an online readership that probably rivals that. That is a little too large to ignore and, as a result, a little too dangerous to leave unchallenged.

The Globe and Mail and any other newspaper that engages in such a campaign as is obviously underway in these columns and articles is in large measure, unfortunately, making a major contribution to the car culture that is itself at the heart of so many of our environmental problems, not to mention its contribution to our national health problems, and its major and central contribution to our global diminishing supplies of not just oil but a wide variety of finite resources. It is a major contributor to the ongoing campaign to lead us blindly over the cliff that awaits with peak oil. The careful and wilful manipulation of data and statistics to feed the public love for their automobiles, to push the automotive agenda is unconscionable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richard, thanks for the most informative blog, came across it after reading "Choosing Eden". It is obvious Reynolds doesn't know too much about Peak Oil. We have the same problem here with a new rail line running up the centre of the freeway, you "fly" past the cars and only see one person in most, when the fuel reaches $2 ltr that may change. Talked to a real estate agent yesterday, he still thinks the fuel will come down, that it is speculators in the market that are putting it up and that the market always turns around. Joy (West Aussie)