A friend who lives in Whitehorse recently bought her first vehicle.
Now, she is quite environmentally aware, and purchasing a vehicle did raise some mental anguish.
Fortunately anguish can be rationalized away.
She determined that a vehicle was required to go efficiently to and from work.
In addition, she felt it was needed to access recreational and cultural opportunities.
The irony is that her work revolves around climate change.
Climate change is caused by the very greenhouse gases that come out of the exhaust tailpipe of the vehicle that she just purchased.
Despite this, she felt that there was no practical alternative to not owning a vehicle.
While it is possible to use the public transit to get from most of the urban subdivisions to the majority of offices and businesses, it is far from convenient.
This is mainly due to lack of frequent service and restricted hours of operation.
The frequency cannot be increased nor can the hours be extended until ridership increases.
And ridership will not increase until the frequency and hours improve.
It is a chicken and egg dilemma that has been going on for many years.
As far as getting to and from cultural activities, a vehicle is a must.
Most shows, be they theatre or film or music, end late at night, long after transit has stopped.
While there are taxis, there are often not enough of them available to convey all passengers home in a timely manner after a busy concert.
This can mean a long wait late at night in order to get an empty cab.
A vehicle is required to partake in certain recreational activities.
Getting to the Mt. Sima ski hill requires a vehicle because there is no community shuttle service.
And while hard-core skiers do ski out to the Chadburn Lake ski trails, most users drive out in their own vehicles.
It is counter intuitive, but in order to enjoy the great natural outdoors the products of the fossil-fuel industrial society must be used to access it.
In Whitehorse’s case it means almost everyone owns their own vehicle.
What it all boils down to is not that Whitehorse has an inadequate transit system.
In fact, given the circumstances it is actually a pretty good system although there is room for improvement.
The problem lies in the way Whitehorse is laid out, and the way it is inhabited.
To be blunt, it is a low-density suburban sprawl.
Yes, sprawl is used as a noun, not as a verb, when describing the Yukon’s capital city.
Now, there has been a lot of talk in recent days how the United States will be improving vehicle emissions standards.
These emissions are only part of the environmental catastrophe that vehicles are responsible for.
Even if all vehicles ran on environmentally friendly pixie dust the amount of land that would be gobbled up in the sprawl of roads and parking would still be horrendous.
Cars are not really the problem.
The problem is how we’ve chosen to live, sprawled and destroying the very landscape we love.
Now there are those, like this writer, who choose for environmental reasons to not own a car.
It is actually very easy to live car free in this town as long as the rest of you all own vehicles, and of course are prepared to give him rides.
Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.