Glean Carbon Footprint Lessons from Other Countries
Start Thinking Outside the Box

by Kevin Burns
(Odawara, Japan)

Carbon Footprint of World Countries

Carbon Footprint of World Countries

Glean carbon footprint lessons from other countries & start to think outside the box.

The smog warning had been broadcast on the radio, Mom called me in. I would not be playing outdoors that afternoon.

A vision of the future? No, just routine life in Long Beach, California ( a suburb of LA) in 1966. I was too young to know what a "smog warning" meant, but it bothered me just the same.

I wake up to telephone poles. I am lying in the back of Dad`s 1963 Chevy Impala and I see miles and miles of telephone poles. We are back in Canada, Delta, BC to be exact.

Our town, Tsawwassen is approximately 45 minutes by highway from Vancouver. The summer is hot but dry. I remember a few summers like that back in the late 60's and early 70's.

Now in Vancouver it can be sweltering and seems to swelter every summer. When I was a kid that summer, no-one owned an air conditioner in Delta. Few cars even had them. Yet, some people now have air-conditioners in their apartment or condominium.

The weather has definitely changed. Palm trees now proudly grow in downtown Tsawwassen, where none could have survived 42 years ago.

Al Gore is right, things have changed.

I`m 47 now, and I suffer from allergies and asthma. Is that related to our time in "smog city?" Who knows?

In L.A. and Long Beaches's defence, they have cleaned up their act big time. The air is much cleaner now than we remember it. I think increased filtering of factories and cars, plus some of the new hybrids have done that, and I am confident it will only get better as green technology comes more to the fore in the 21st century.

This really will be our green century, I feel.

Indeed the weather changes naturally, but if you put so much carbon into the air, an amount of carbon never seen in the history of the earth, it has to affect us somehow.

I get a kick out of Canadians in so many ways. Though I am a Canuck myself, I have lived in America, and for almost half my life in Japan. I have travellled to many countries too. What surprises me, is a certain kind of thinking that ocurrs. I think this is natural.

If you are surrounded with many people who like ice hockey, you probably will too. Some don't, but many many do. Group think occurs and this often involves the car in Canada I feel.

In Japan we have electric train lines everywhere. I think they are a very practical and efficient, and much more environmentally friendly way of moving people than the car. More efficient and better for nature than even hybrid cars I will argue.

British Columbia, Quebec and other provinces are rich in electric power, power that can be used to power trains. Even solar powered trains should be explored. We have solar cars, why not solar trains? The Prairies are very sunny places, for example.

When I went back to Delta one summer, the people there were up in arms over the fact that traffic had gotten bad again, and they wanted another ring road, and another crossing of the Fraser River. What blew me away however, was that no-one in the newspaper even mentioned the possibility of a train line. Even the intelligent friends and relatives around me argued it couldn't be done, that it couldn't make a profit.

And yet not five minutes from my home in Japan, is a train line. It is in a very small city much like Tsawwassen, and it has less people than Delta, and yet we have a privately owned and operated train line, that makes a profit every year.

They have advertising space at all the stations, they of course sell tickets, and the train line even stimulates business along the line.

I think if a concept works in one country, you cannot argue it won't work in another. True, maybe it will need some tweaking for the Canadian context, but it can be done.

I too have been concerned about the change in the weather. I used to find the thunderstorms and even the typhoons of Japan exciting, however things have changed and the power of these storms is much scarier than twenty years ago. I don't call them exciting anymore. I am now concerned for the safety of my family.

Indeed in Japan the roads are narrow, and this encourages train use. And we could try that in Canada. Or, we could simply refuse to build new roads in favor of train use. Train lines also create jobs, so you will get the business-minded types backing an environmental initiative.

I think some of what we need to do to make this world a better place for our children and grandchildren, is to get our head out of the box.

We need to open our eyes and ears to new ideas from other countries, as ideas that work there can work in ours--think outside the box!

Japan has few natural resources. However, she has a vast knowledge about technology and robotics, not to mention is an expert train making country. Canada can learn from Japan. Canada can learn from Europe and other countries too.

Even "so-called" third world nations have ideas we can benefit from, if we stop thinking we are superior and know it all already.

Your children, and their children, will thank us for thinking of them, and for doing all that we could.

About the Author:

Kevin Burns takes the electric train to the university in Kanagawa, Japan, where he teaches English.

He writes for his website Japan Living, "Learn about living and working in Japan from those that do!"

Japan Living

How to teach English in Japan, "The straight story on getting a good teaching position, in this very exotic country."

How To Teach English In Japan

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