Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Can Choose

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now an ecology consultant. He is a partner in a venture capital project to use sea water to sequester carbon from power generation. As I watched his brief interview on TV, I thought "cool". He described how India and China were continuing to build new coal plants, and that Western coal-fired plants would continue to operate well into the future, thus carbon sequestering is vital technology and needs development.

In my opinion, carbon sequestering is a problematic idea. Ideally we would use non-fossil fuels for our energy needs. However, given that the continued burning of fossil fuels is a certainty, trapping carbon is required.

And then Tony said," You will never get people to stop driving their cars. You will never get consumers to stop consuming." At this, my heart sank.

A great world leader has just said "technology is the only answer" because "people can't change." At least that's how I heard it. And I really must voice my opinion to the contrary. I think we must start talking now, about how to change ourselves and our society, so that our future is about both new energy technologies and new energy attitudes.

Take, for example, bicycles and public transit as alternatives to cars. In North America I was a gas-guzzling lead-footed car guy. In Holland I love my bicycles! And I'm not the only one. Here, most of my expat friends walk or tram or ride, but don't drive.

Check out this incredible video. It is the morning rush hour in downtown Utrecht, Netherlands.

Isn't that beautiful? At that intersection 30,000 riders go past every day. That's 30,000 trips without a car! Bikes and buses have lanes and roads reserved just for them. And to quote the video's source, cycling in the Netherlands is THIRTY times safer than in the U.S.A.

Is this a technology issue? Is bicycle technology in North America just not up to par? Is it a resource issue? Is Canada lacking in bike lanes because of a lack of space? Of course not.

I think now is the time we must choose. We can choose to change. We can choose new attitudes and new ways. Or we can choose to depend on dinosaurs; and ultimately follow in their path.

I hope all the best for Tony and his technology. I really do. But I really believe he's wrong about what people are capable of. At least, I hope he is.