Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Walkin' towards Independence...

(First, let me just say a huge THANK YOU for all the supportive comments and Light that was shared from the last post. I was nervous about posting such a personal and emotional event, and I really appreciate the kind reaction! Thank You!!)

After living car-less throughout six years of university, I was pretty darn smug about my awesome walking ability. I mean, driving in Montreal is ridiculously scary and the transit there is fantastic. Then I moved to Vernon BC, a TINY town in the middle of no where and sadly had purchased my first car. A cute, uber efficient 3 door Yaris hatchback (who's name is the "Jelly Bean"), but a car nonetheless. 

Jelly Bean and me in BC... it's so shiny and new!
After two years of driving everywhere, I vowed that our return to the "big city" of Halifax (haha) would result in less to NO driving. AND I got a job 20 minutes outside the city and drove everyday. At least for two seasons out of the year I carpooled! I also watched our goal of using "no car" for city stuff dwindle down to nothing. Halifax, although a city, has a TERRIBLE bus system. I mean, bad. From the navigation and choosing a route stage, to actually finding a bus that ran more than once an hour, to being able to rely on said bus actually showing up on time (or at all!).

Andrew, being awesome, has figured out the bus route for his work and uses it regularly... at the small price of 72$ a month. Yep, and they wonder why transit use is so low. I vowed that if I ever got a job in the Halifax office I would walk to work every day.

Starting last week, I got that job. Currently I have walked four days so far (three days last week I had to drive and today I worked outside the city again). It's a forty minute intense walk each way and I had stitches in my sides every time! I haven't walked so much since my Montreal days! Monday, waking up like my body had been run over by a snowmobile, had been especially difficult...

Pre-walking, I made sure to have the correct equipment: comfy knee-high boots, pulled out the old knee-length coat (thank goodness mom patched up the inside- yay for being thrifty!), hat, scarves and mittens. I think I may also have to invest in long johns.... ack!

Spring Garden+Barrington intersection, Beautiful Stone Church juxtaposed against an uber modern building... TRES Halifax
I would like to say that Peak Oil, carbon emissions or some other environmental reason was the motivation for actually sticking with walking.... but really it's the cost of parking (I KNOW, so embarrassing to admit!). The two days I parked last week cost 30$, and all monthly parking lots close enough to consider are well over 100$ a month. 

Alright, I know some colleagues who live in the city and still manage to park somewhere, so I have to say the TIPPING point was the environment. Plus, each day I walk I feel SO GOOD about decreasing my dependence on oil.

Have you thought or heard about Peak Oil dear reader? I hadn't until about 8 months ago... after starting to read the several blogs and sites on the topic, I started to feel my anxiety rise. Basically, the premise (that has been proven by leading organizations) is that oil is a finite resource. Made from plant matter that  has been compressed for millions of years, there is only so much available on the planet.

We are at the "peak" of oil resource availability... and will eventually (in our lifetime and many experts claim *in the near future*) run out. As oil becomes more and more scarce, prices will rise resulting in everything that depends on oil's prices to rise... which is basically everything. From plastic, to food, to electricity... the list goes on. Eventually the entire system will crash. If you'd like to read more please visit Sharon Astyk's blogs (Casaubon's Book, Riot for Austerity, Sharon Astyk), Crash Course in Peak Oil, Peak Oil Hausfrau

Alright, I can recognize rationally that this is true, but honestly the language is just plain scary and immobilizing. I do believe that it is important to acknowledge, but I don't feel that hunkering down into apocalypse-mode will be mentally healthy for myself.  

Recently, I have realized that the transition and resolution to shift our worldview to a more communal-relationship valued as opposed to consumeristic valued life fits in well with preparing for "Peak Oil". In using less energy, buying less "things", beginning to grow our own food (hopefully with more success!), eating local and organic food that doesn't travel as far (depending on fuel) and planning on using alternative energy sources to power our (someday) house are all things that lessen our dependance on oil.

Getting used to walking to work is another (huge) step.

Hopefully it will also strengthen my legs... which have always been pretty darn weak. As a result, I'm hoping that my standing postures will improve as well!

On that Yoga note:
(Anonymous: Thank you so much for alerting me (and friends!) to Seth's studio opening next week! I may be out of the city for most or all of that week, but will attend a class regardless and definitely keep you updated via a post! It would also be cool if you left a name, if you felt comfortable with that when you comment :) It's so exciting that other Haligonians are reading!)


  1. I am SO impressed! 40 minutes is a lot! Mother Earth thanks you. I live almost 20 miles away from my job, so I'm glad you're helping to counteract my carbon footprint : /

  2. My very first car I had for a couple of years before I left for Sydney. I had a few car-less years, living in the inner city so it was never a problem. Then for around thirteen years I either owned a car or had a partner who owned one. In July 2008, I gave up my car when I left my last big corporate job (it was part of the package) and haven't had one since!

    I either walk or bike or use our (relatively decent) public transport system. I live near enough to the city for ammenities to be accessible this way.

    And I also use a car share service called Flexicar, for the times when I need a car. Which is brilliant! I might spend $100-$200 on the service in a month. Sometimes more, others less. But if I owned a car, I'd easily spend that much in petrol per month. So I figure I'm ahead and I also feel much better about my role in not polluting environment as much. All good as far as I can tell!

    I remember when I used to live in the same area a few years back and had a car. And how I'd drive to the local shops instead of walking or riding my bike like I do now.

    But then, I figure its sort of like getting a bigger place to live: if you have the space, you'll fill it. If you have a car, you'll use it. Is it a rule of proximity? Or laziness? Something like that.

    But the more I cycle, walk or use my car share service, the better I feel about my use of our precious resources. All it takes is being a little less comfortable than I was.

    And really, it's not hard to live like that - it's all about taming our insatiable need to want/have/own, which seems to come with a sense of entitlement. Something that most of us westerners really need to take a good hard look at, eh?

  3. My husband and I just bought a car after 4 years of being carless in DC. He needs it for his job, but I'll continue public transit to my job. After being away from driving for so long, I hate being behind the wheel. Walking and public transit means waiting in the cold, walking in the cold, and sweating in the summer, but it frees you from traffic jams, expensive gas, and all the other "joys" of driving. Good luck with the walking. It gets better and becomes your new normal.

  4. Oh, EcoYogini... The world is changing, and it's going to be a tough transition. If only everyone made the small sacrifices now, it could be so much easier. But the human race seems to need to learn the hard way. I wonder how we will all survive - or if we will lol. A very wise 93 year old man said to me recently that his advice for the future was this: "buy land. learn how to farm it." Hits home doesn't it.

    Guess I'd better get on google and figure out what's eating my tomatoes - cause at the moment, I can't grow food to literally save my life!


  5. It's a counterintuitive truth that living in the big polluting city is generally far more eco-efficient than going "back to nature," i.e.moving way out into the country where you're using a lot more land per capita as well as driving a lot more. I've certainly been driving a lot less since I moved to the city (though, when I do drive, I'm the master of free parking...though it helps that I'm a big guy and, hence, feel more secure about parking in neighborhoods where a lot of my friends wouldn't).

    As for peak oil, it's really important to separate the truly fact-based stuff from the not-so-fact-based stuff. Certainly, there's no denying that oil is a finite resource, and, really, it became clear way back in the mid 70's both that our excessive use of it was incredibly harmful for the environment, and that it was becoming scarce enough that incessant conflicts over it were becoming inevitable (a major criticism I have of the peace movement in the United States is the tendency to shout "no blood for oil" without talking about the necessary steps to curtail our incredibly destructive addiction to oil.) So, basically, the scarcity of oil, along with our use of it, became a major problem a long time ago, and, inevitably, it's gonna get a lot worse, as will global warming, if we don't get a lot smarter about our use of fossil fuels.

    At the same time, one thing I've learned from years of activism, is that, on the fringes of the political spectrum, people ALWAYS think society is on the verge of complete collapse (and radical environmentalists tend to be among the worse culprits) (seriously, if you told any of the people I was hanging out with in college in the 80's that society as we know it would still exist in 2010...or even 2000, they'd have laughed you right out of the room). So, having had people shoving evidence that everything's about to come tumblin' down in the next year or two in my face for the past quarter century, I don't get too alarmed--particularly as a number of the leading peak oil alarmists are obviously kooks.

    Alright, I've ranted on enough. Keep on walkin'...

  6. Whoa! Forty minutes?! Way to go!! I know what you mean about walking making you feel so free from oil dependence. In the summer time, I try to walk everywhere. Lately, I have only ventured (on foot) to my sister's house, which is also forty minutes one way.

    And the Peak Oil thing really scares me, too. I constantly worry about that, especially in terms of business. I'm not even sure I should open to other continents... Something I need to think about!!

  7. Yeah, the oil thing is something I've been aware of for a while. There's still quite a bit in the middle east, which may just have a little something to do with a little war we're in, but this is no place for my political cynicism.

    The big thing in the UK is natural gas (for Americans, this is the stuff that heats our homes not fuel our cars!). New homes are being built electricity only "because it's safer" when we all know it's because we have no gas left. We're already out of North Sea gas and are currently relying on Russia to pipe it in to us....

    I have to admit I do drive to work. I live about 3.5 miles away and have free parking and there is no bus. I would like to cycle in once the weather gets a bit warmer. I'd love to walk it but I would have to leave the house about half an hour earlier than usual and I just can't face that! I am aware I'm just making excuses!

    I wish I could afford a little electric car....

  8. Brava, Lisa! I wish I could walk to work, even 40min each way. Since we live outside the city (where I work) and Baltimore's (well, Maryland in general) mass transit is wretched, it would be a huge and LONG, not to mention unsafe, ordeal to do the transit shuffle to and from work. (Even if I were to ride my bike to the station, I'm not sure they allow bikes on the light rail.) As it is, I pay $135/month to park in the garage, which sucks, but unfortunately we haven't found any other options. We down here could learn a lot from how you Canadians organize your towns and manage mass transit. Blessings! (P.S. I'm already jealous of how strong and awesome your standing poses will soon be! Legs of steel, lady!)

  9. You're wonderful!



  10. I used to walk 45 mintutes to school in Halifax (and everywhere) even though I had a free bus pass from university. I took the bus twice when the weather was just too bad for walking. I love walking in cities. Living in a rural area like I do now, you need a car, but I don't get out much:) I miss city walking. I live on a rural highway and it's no fun walking in that. The woods is good for walking except for when it's really wet, coverd in snow, or it's tick season.

  11. nyc's monthly subway/bus pass is $89, not that much more than halifax, but then again it is way worth it because it's one of the best public transport systems and runs 24hrs.

    could you bike to work when the weather is a bit warmer? it would probably take a third of the time. or is it really unsafe to bike in halifax? although nyc is not completely safe and ideal for bike riding, there is a big bike culture here.

    i wish i biked to work but it's just too far right now, something like 8 miles, which my brain can't wrap around to wake up early enough to get to work on time!

    one of my greatest anxieties about moving out of the city is having to drive everywhere. my ideal home would be within 1.5 miles of town so i could walk/bike whenever possible, but that comes at a tradeoff of space and privacy which is the whole point of moving out of the city. argh! we shall see.

  12. Good for you! I am a Montanan...and in Montana you have to have a car. It is a big state. No public transportation. But, when I am in town, I really should walk to is no where near as far as you have to walk. I'm also a wimp and when it is 20 below and dark in the morning, I don't really want to be outside. Excuses, right? You've definitely given me something to think about :D

  13. you're going to be walking like a montrealer again in no time! bundle up and enjoy the fresh air!

  14. I just had to let you know how much this post affected me...while I'm certainly not a full-on-eco-gal, I am highly aware and try to make every step a conscious one.

    After reading this, I was ready to pick up my son from the school bus. Generally, on a day where there is ice and/or rain, I pop my 2 year old in the car and we drive up the street to wait for him. I couldn't, in good consciousness, do this after reading your post. So we bundled up and headed out to meet him...and guess what? We all survived.

    I can't say that I always make the right eco-choices, but knowing that there are others out there like you continues to inspire me to make each step one closer to our mother. Thank you.

  15. Great post again. I love the way you think and wish others did the same. I know some do, but way too many DO NOT. I have been doing all that I can to live a green lifestyle, and its amazing to me the people who are totally clueless. Keep it up. Your blog is inspiring!

  16. Oh I am so glad I wrote this post- every time I feel like I might drive, all I have to do is read through here- instent motivation!!

    Jamie: Thank you! I thought so!!

    Svasti: we have somethign similar to flexicar here- it's called carshare. Not exactly relevant for our household, but a fantastic idea. they use hybrid cars as well!

    writeonyoga: SO TRUE. I have road rage, i will admit, so walking has resulted in pedestrian-rage, however it's more like pedestrian-annoyance, cuz if i shake my fist and yell while walking it's a bit less socially appropriate.... lol.

    La Gitane: the best advice i've heard. Buy land and farm it. I was just talking to Andrew last night about planning our balcony garden a bit better this year (i.e. actually CHOOSING plants by the amount of sun we get.... hah).

    Mary Ellen: Thanks! :)

    Dr. Jay: you are very right- although someday we'll live outside the city, i definitely use my car less here than when i visit my parents. I also agree that catastrophic thinking isn't very productive- as you said, we're still here. But at the same time I think it's important to find that balance....

    Greenspell: sigh- winter is a tricky time to start walking. not really ideal hey? Peak Oil is pretty darn scary- but once I came to the realization that "no I wasn't going to plan a bunker etc etc" and that what I was doing was moving towards decreasing oil dependance... well then I was doing my part. I do think that the financial aspect is smart all around- decreasing spending helps with decreasing buying "stuff". one of those links (casaubon's book?) has a great list of things to consider to decrease energy use.

    Rachel: natural gas is also coming here in Canada (anyways) recently. I think certain parts of Halifax are rigged for hook up... and it's spreading :) I wish we had infrastructure for an electric car too..... and cleaner energy to draw from.

    Vegan Burnout- Thank you!! :) Yep, you do what you have to right, and if the transit sucks, well there ya go. Halifax transit sucks too. haha, i will definitely keep you updated on my LEGS OF STEEL with standing postures.... YAY

    Who's that gamine: awww- thanks :)

    Grace: I only liked walking when we stayed at our cottage (SUPER rural), where my parents live it isn't fun walking. Mostly cuz each car that passes knows who you are and stares..... when i walked my brother's saint bernard, every single person that drove past stared. blegh. i like the anonymity of walking in the city.

    Julia: Andrew's back bike tire got stolen last fall.... and I don't have a bike. BUT i have a helmet! hah. So- i'm thinking of investing in a bike for my own :) THAT would be awesome. I'm not sure about biking to work- but i could most certainly bring it upstairs- really... what could they say? I work with kids. :)
    Yep- in Montreal the transit pass was about that much for non-students, but it's worth it when the system is AWESOME. Halifax just sucks.

    babs: thank you! most places outside of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada require a car... even Halifax. But you're right, walking when it's cold sucks. Except- when it snows it's so beautiful to be walking....

    roseanne: haha YES!

    Lisa: WOW- I am so honoured that you chose to walk today because of my post!! That is so cool :) One of my favourite memories of winter as a child was getting bundled up and walking in the snow. I really wish I had a snowsuit to go sledding on the hill here in the city... I had this picture in my head of a mother and this little, pouffedly dressed child walking hand in hand down the street in the snow... and it made me smile :)

    Heather: thank you! yep, it is definitely frustrating when you feel like the only one making these changes. but we're not alone! :)

  17. I walk to work, too! :) It helps me decompress and unwind after a long day, so I'm happier when I arrive home.


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