With over 45% of total U.S. petroleum refining capacity located along the Gulf coast (https://www.eia.gov/special/gulf_of_mexico/, gas prices will continue to rise. As I write this, a category 4 hurricane (Irma) is heading toward the east coast of the U.S.A. September is the height of the hurricane season, and we are not even half way through the alphabet!!
But as I look out my window on a late Saturday morning, every car that I see stopping at the stop sign across the main street that I live on in Verdun, has but one person, the driver (we have not yet made it to self-driven cars!) in it. There is clearly no pressure yet to conserve gas or to limit the use of one’s car.
My daughter in Dallas is already dealing with gas rationing, and with gas stations running out of gas (she went to four stations before she found gas.). This was a shock to her as she had never seen rationing of any kind. I, however, clearly remember the 1973 and 1979 gas rationing in the U.S. And I also remember the push to carpool (https://www.shareable.net/blog/the-history-of-carpooling-from-jitneys-to-ridesharing).
So here we are, at the beginning of what promises to be an ever increasing price for using our cars. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of our carbon footprint (http://timeforchange.org/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-definition).
A carbon footprint is a difficult concept. Even people who understand the idea can not seem to really apply it to themselves. (Here is a link to calculate your carbon footprint: (http://www.carbonzero.ca/calculate).
It is a lack of understanding of the idea of interconnectedness with which we all seem to struggle. It is the jump that has to be made between the micro (that drive to the grocery store to pick up the cream you forgot when you shopped earlier), and the macro (that twenty minute ride is putting more CO2 in the atmosphere and is increasing global warming). We are all very loath to be inconvenienced or see our independence restricted by even the smallest amount. But the irony, of course, is that unless we change our lifestyle radically, unless we learn to curb our habit of instant gratification, our freedom will be limited for us in a far more drastic and unpleasant way!
So I am suggesting that we look at a number of possible alternatives to keeping our own cars or to using them constantly that will both save us money and greatly reduce our carbon footprint:
1. Carpooling or ridesharing:
this can be done with friends at work or with neighbours. It has the added benefit of helping the feelings of being disconnected and lonely from which many of us are suffering. It does mean, of course, that your schedule must now be negotiated with other people. But that practice of getting along with others is going to be vital for our survival in the coming years.
There are also new apps turning up every day to help find people to share rides. Here are just a few I have found online:
Have you used any of these, and what do you think about them, or about ridesharing in general?
2. Renting a car:
you will want to do the math on this. If you are only using the car occasionally it might make more sense to rent a car rather than pay for a car, upkeep, insurance, and parking (not to mention digging the car out of the snow here in the winter in Montreal if you can not afford an indoor garage!).
Taxis and Ubers are also good if needed infrequently. Again, how much would a taxi cost for a once a week food shopping?
3. Take public transportation:
you have great public transportation here in Montreal relative to places in the US that I have lived. Sometimes it is challenging to have to wait for a bus, but again, patience is going to be very much in demand in the coming years, and it is the practice of patience which makes it get stronger. For those of us who begin to change our way of living now, we are the ones who will be more resilient and able to deal more easily with the coming difficulties!
Would you consider this, especially as Montreal has awful construction delays?
4. Walk or bike:
this is a great way to get the best kind of exercise: drop weight and, by carrying groceries, build your muscles! Unfortunately, in the US especially, there is a real stigma for people who must walk or bike (usually because they have lost their driver’s license because of DUI, or they are too poor to keep a car). In my home town of Dallas, Texas, I am often the only person walking on the street. I am, incidentally, one of the thinner people around!
With Bixi bikes (https://montreal.bixi.com/en) to rent all around town, and discounts on Opus cards (http://www.stm.info/en) for bus and metro (subway) including monthly rates, Montreal is a great town to live in without a car as I do!
Could you see yourself giving up your car altogether?!
If you have finished this post, you will realize that none of this information is new. But it is beginning to be very important, and I hope that it will be helpful to find it all in one place. I would also encourage everyone to look on cars as tools, not status symbols or toys. They are one of the things responsible for climate change and as such, should only be used for real necessities!
I am very interested to hear your stories about the links I shared, and your experiences of reducing car use in your life! Please comment!