December 18, 2012
THE LAST WORD
My Christmas Wish? Gas at Three Bucks a Litre
by Alberto Mario DeLogu
It's obvious: in these modern times there is no other way to influence people’s behaviour when it comes to using their car than to hit them where it really hurts: their wallet. Italian authorities are among those who have tried to reduce car use by creating pedestrian-only areas, enforcing an alternate plate-number system, and having obligatory car-free Sundays. Not surprisingly, the effect was slight. Only when the price of gas reached 1.80 euros per litre did the miracle of ungluing Italians off their car seat occur.
Statistics show that with gas prices peaking, by March 2012 gas consumption in Italy decreased by 10 percent compared to 2011. Since then, people are driving fewer kilometres, buying fewer cars, and using more public transportation. The number of bicycle riders is up. In short, Italians are starting to behave like they have the public good in mind.
In Canada, however, the miracle of reduced car use is still only in God's long-term plans. And even if the price of gas were to leap to two and a half dollars per litre (the equivalent price of gas in Italy), peeling Canadians off their car seats might still prove impossible.
This is a country built around the car: the land of sidewalk-free residential neighbourhoods, shopping centres the size of small Italian towns, and sports utility vehicles – those bulky monuments to human vanity – that have nothing to do with sports, never mind utility. They’re not vehicles, but rather mechanical monsters often driven by young, diaphanous mothers on a perpetual diet, who use them to …carry loads of lumber? …race from Paris to Dakar? …cross the Himalayas? Nah: to shop for groceries, take the kids to school, and go and get their hair done. These two-ton masses of metal and glass start sucking energy the minute they hit the assembly line. They clog our streets, pollute the environment, and turn our cities into a Ridley Scott nightmare. As for what they do to people, well, we are already starting to look like those pear-shaped humanoids in Disney-Pixar's prophetic animation movie Wall-e.
People will tell you that they bought an SUV “for safety.” Don’t believe that for a moment! Not only do SUVs roll over more easily than sedans, they are also far more dangerous for other vehicles and pedestrians. But hey: what business does a person have walking on a street anyway? Streets were made for motor vehicles!
And so, on this continent so foolishly devoted to consumption just for the heck of it, let us welcome high gas prices. This Christmas I want gas at three dollars a litre! It may finally serve to convince people to walk more, ride their bikes more, build more sidewalks – and if they must, buy a fuel-savvy Cinquecento instead of a wasteful truckofortress.
Alberto Mario DeLogu is the author of Sardignolo (2010). Born and raised in Sardegna, he now lives in Montreal.
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