The End is Nigh

So apparently, not only is catastrophic climate change coming sooner, it’s going to be even worse than we thought as well. And this is coming from a “conservative” paper on the subject:

The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document – that’s what makes it so scary,’ said one senior UK climate expert.

When I read these sorts of things 2 thoughts occur to me: 1) I want to curl up in a little ball on my bed and hide until its all over 2) I want the power to force change upon the population.

It’s these sort of reports that make me think that what it’s going to take to get Canada or the US to make the monstrous amount of painful changes is for someone to be elected with a majority government (or control of Senate & Congress), and then be willing to ram through insanely unpopular legislation to meet emission-reduction targets, and fines for polluters, and raise taxes for polluting goods, etc. Essentially, be willing to be a one-term ruler in order to get these things done. Because I think 4 years of activ(e/ist) legislation could do a lot. But you’d need control, and you’d need to realize that you’re probably NOT going to get re-elected, because virtually every industry lobby will be working against you.

Frackin’ Pennies!

This is one of those totally irrational pet peeves of mine. It’s easily summed up as this: When I Am King, I will eliminate the Penny. I hate pennies. They’re small, they’re ugly, they often smell bad (somehow, worse than other change), they’re not really worth anything. Clearly, most people agree with me, because anyone will toss aside a penny. When buying things, if you’re shy a penny or two, the store will always let you get away with it, because hey! It’s only a penny!

Except, my friends, for 7-11. And in the past 6 months, 7-11 has upped the price on everything you buy there so that it no longer rounds to the nearest nickel. A candy bar? $1.09. A Bottle of pop? $1.77. And in my experience (the notable exception being the overly friendly guy at the 7-11 on the Corner of Beattie & Smithe), 7-11 will never let you get away without the penny. To be quite honest, I’d rather they just up the price to the nearest nickel, if they really want to hassle me about it.

Last night, CTV news started a new series (a really bad one too), about the “truth” of common idioms. Last night’s was “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned”, wherein they watched to see if people would pick up pennies from the street, and interviewed people about their savings. And of course, if you make small contributions over a long time, compound interest does add up. But still, they were talking about tens of dollars a month, not pennies a day.

Stupid pennies!

Transportation

Continuing my irregular series of posts on things I’ll do when I am king, here’s some thoughts on what I’d like to do with transportation in Vancouver:

  • Pedestrian malls: I’d make Granville, from Davie to Waterfront, a pedestrian mall on weekends. Cars would be redirected to Syemour & Hornby. I’d also tag Robson to be Pedestrian, from Granville to, say, Bute – perhaps Broughton. Assuming this experiment works well (and I’m sure it will), I’d look to expand the pedestrian-only times.
  • Single-Driver tax: Anyone crossing Lion’s Gate, Second Narrows, or the Tunnel (you know the one), with only one person, would pay a toll. Commercial vehicles & motorcycles would be exempt from this. This could be handled simply by allowing those in the HOV lane to drive straight through, while creating a toll-zone for others. Yes, this could create a traffic nightmare, but that’s partially the point.
  • Expanded transit: It amazes me everytime I travel to Europe how these small little places all have amazing transit systems. I’d like to study how those work and make Vancouver emulate that. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of a single-driver tax: make driving less inviting, but correspondingly, make taking transit more inviting. These means more suburban routes, more skytrain coverage, a more modern bus fleet. These small “commuter shuttle” busses that are now servicing Yaletown and the West End seem like a smart way to go for less-used routes.
  • Cycling-lanes: There needs to be more of these. The network in Vancouver is decent, but could definitely use improvement, principally in main-road routes.
  • Subsidized Bus passes: Much like the U-Pass available to all UBC & SFU Students, I’d extend this offer to all local (Accredited) college students in the Lower Mainland. Also, I’d create a program of tax incentives for corporations (small and large) to offer the same to their employees.
  • Highway/roadway improvement: Because alot of the above will end up funnelling traffic along certain routes, it is imperative that those roads be improved: specialized HOV/Bus lanes where there aren’t currently any, widened here and there, and most importantly, remove bottlenecks like the Oak street bridge, where a 3-lane street siphons into a 2-lane bridge just before going on the highway. At least add a third, HOV/Bus-only lane on that bridge!

At any rate, those are my half-baked ideas on transit for the day.

When I Am King

A (potentially) ongoing, pie-in-the-sky look at the things I would do, if I were king. I’ll keep adding to these as other ephemera pop into my head. Expect it to be contradictory, expect some ideas to be really dumb, expect me to completely change my mind. These are all just things for at least a brief moment, seem like a good idea.

  • Legalize all narcotics, then open government-owned ‘Drug Stores’ to sell the products, reaping in sweet tax money. Existing pharmaceuticals would be allowed to bid on supply contracts, and there would be strict regulations & standards for content & quality of the drugs.
  • Raise the minimum wage.
  • Make all fines not flat fees, but rather be proportionate to your income, like it is in parts of Scandanavia
  • Make it illegal to drive while talking on your cell phone. Hands-free units might be acceptable
  • Elimate tax on ‘green’ products – reusables, eco-friendly, etc – what would constitute being green would be reviewed regularly, to keep upping the ante
  • Raise the minimum amount of taxable income, so that fewer extremely poor people have to pay tax
  • Create a ‘National Service’ program – like required military service, only, community service, not military. A 1-year program (paid) for all Canadians, to be done between 18 & 25. Also, perhaps a shorter program for immigrants, as a requirement for citizenship.
  • Eliminate up-front university tuition for Canadians studying in Canada. Instead, tuition will be paid through taxes post-completion. Say, 1 or 2% extra tax,per year, until paid.
  • Insitute a ‘discretionary’ tax for citizens. Like VanCity’s million-dollar fund. Groups will be able to apply to be recipients of this direct money. Citizens will then be able to direct a small portion of their tax to a specific cause, group, etc.