The Daily Commute: Considering the Options

The Road More Traveled

The Deeply Ingrained Car Culture

Most of us living in the US and Canada get to work by car. While I personally use my bike or public transportation, I am keenly aware that I am in the minority. I write this not to pass judgement, but rather simply to state the facts. In the United States, 86% of commuters get to work by car and more than three-quarters of those people drive to work alone. Canadian statistics are no better. Half the Canadian population commutes to work, and of those 74% drive there. Of these, the majority also tend to drive alone. The national average for solo drivers across Canada is 83%, compared with 76% in the US.

These numbers are staggering! Moreso when we consider the cost of all our vehicles. Both in terms of the money we dish out to purchase and maintain this lifestyle, as well as the very real costs to our long term health and the environment. Clearly this is an inefficient system. Not only do our cars rapidly deplete in value, contribute to the extensive use of fossil fuels, require copious amounts of resources to construct, and provide a substantial source of stress and loss of life, they also represent some of the least efficient instruments of our modern civilization. Particularly considering that cars spend the majority of their lifespan parked (and I don’t mean in traffic!). In the US cars are parked for 95% of the time, in the UK the number is closer to 96.5%. After carefully considering the cost benefit analysis our solo car commutes are evidently illogical. So, what are our options?

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The Struggle for Survival

Film Recommendation

The Island President (2011)

Getting the Word Out

This documentary follows Mohamed Nasheed the (then) president of the Republic of Maldives on his quest to generate the necessary attention and subsequent policy measures required to help prevent his country from being swallowed up by climate change. The Maldives, a collections of islands in the Indian Ocean, is home to aprx. 350, 000 (human) inhabitants all of whom are in danger of becoming climate refugees as global temperatures increase and ocean waters rise.

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The Consequences of Rapid Consumption

Film Recommendation

True Cost (2015)

Following the Trend

This documentary investigates the social and environmental costs of the fashion industry. As described by the filmmakers, Fast Fashion has made significant gains in the garment industry, encouraging consumers to buy more and discard (click for SNL spoof commercial) what is rapidly considered outdated wear. This approach has generated enormous profits at the cost of suppressing labor wages in the developing countries that provide the manufacturing.

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Inspiring Purpose

TED Recommendation

Sebastião Salgado: The Silent Drama of Photography

Great talk from an inspirational human being and photographer. Salgado is renown for having the ability to capture sentiment and substance within his images. This talk however goes beyond merely a discussion of photography and rather speaks to purpose, empathy, and inter-connectivity. He shares with us his insights and reflections, having seen so much of the world through is particular lens, and encourages us all to better understand our environment and the part we all play within it.

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The Illusion of Choice

Film Recommendation

The Lottery of Birth (2013)

This is a deeply power documentary! While not long by film standards ( 1h 17min), it packs quite a bunch. The filmmakers present a number of speakers that challenge the audience’s world view, and how it was conceived. Interviewing a range of intellectuals, including writers, philosophers, historians and neuroscientists, to name a few, they make the case by which much of our identities are shaped from birth without it being fully realized or appreciated by the individual. We are all born into a country, culture, religion, and environment that is already exerting its forces upon us, and unless we actively question and challenge this paradigm, we are simply supporting the status quo.

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Waste Not, Want Not

Film Recommendation

Trashed (2012)

Jeremy Irons takes us on a journey through our waste, as he investigates it’s impact on our world. This is a moving documentary that will hopefully encourage a greater awareness of our trash and what it does to people and wildlife around the planet. There are indeed deeply saddening examples of those afflicted, as viewers bare witness to a small dose of the tremendous burden being carried by nature and the world’s poor. The documentary is effective in highlighting the glaring deficiency in the current status quo with regards our waste and the immense opportunity for it to be improved. Despite such focus however, it is not a wholly depressing film, in that there are presented alternatives to how we address waste, as well as hope that we can learn from our mistakes. It is a profound and impassioned film certainly worth your time and attention.