Re: David Suzuki’s article, The bus route to success, in the Red Deer Advocate on Monday, March 24 2015.
David Suzuki’s claim that increased transit funding will significantly reduce greenhouse emissions and improve air quality is questionable as neither the province nor the city has taken measures to curb the most serious sources of air pollution.
Unlike the Europeans and many U.S. states, the province has no automobile emission testing program and the vehicle pollution levels in Red Deer are double the level they would be if the emission-reduction features were working on all vehicles. Commercial diesels in Britain have filters on the exhaust. However, even with this feature there are troubling levels of carcinogens along truck routes. We can only guess at the risk in Red Deer as neither commercial diesels nor city buses are equipped with filters.
Vehicle noise in Red Deer is at an abnormally high level and is more than a nuisance — it is unquestionably a health threat. There is no data available in Alberta but the European Union has identified 10,000 deaths a year attributable to vehicle noise with the stress hormone cortisol implicated. This is very troubling data as European cities are generally quieter than Red Deer.
No action we take with regard to transportation can offset the growing threat to the climate and our health from residential wood burning. Montreal is to be commended for recognizing that one wood stove pollutes as much as several hundred automobiles and wood burning will be banned in 2020. Other North American cities have also taken measures to reduce or eliminate urban wood burning. The San Francisco Bay area has taken a less drastic approach as less than 10 per cent of homes have wood burning appliance and they are not used very often. When smoke is not expected to disperse, no-burn days are declared and each smoke-free day saves the health-care system $250,000.
With no measures in place in to protect Red Deer’s residents from air pollution, we can expect a return to the days when anyone who could afford transportation (in those days a horse) would ride into a city to work and get out of the unhealthy city air as soon as possible at the end of the day. Today’s equivalent will be streams of commuters driving to and from the city, increasing greenhouse emissions.
It is troubling that Red Deer is going down the “green” road, following the lead of New Zealand — the greenest country in the world. Their experience gives us a glimpse into our future. Like Canada, New Zealand pulled out of Kyoto as greenhouse emissions keep increasing. Their urban centres are polluted by wood smoke and the cost of treating smoke-related illnesses is placing a heavy burden on the health-care system — something we do not want in Alberta.
Red Deer’s pollution problems will not be solved by spending more on public transport. It would be helpful if Suzuki were to outline an effective program to significantly reduce urban greenhouse emissions and make Canadian cities healthy and wholesome places in which to live.
Canadian Clean Air Alliance