The Swedes have coined two new green travel words

Tagskryt, train pride and Flygskam, plane shame/guilt

To the Expositor:

Imagine yourself back to the future. In the early 1950s one could board an evening train departing Little Current to arrive relaxed at Union Station in Toronto the next morning. Was that smart mobility? It worked for many and disappeared when cars took over. First, houses had single detached auto garages. As we became more familial with cars, single garages were attached to our homes and morphed into double, even triple, vehicle garages, perhaps saprophytically bonded to our living spaces. Most modern homes viewed from the street consist of garages dominating living spaces.

This quaint history is important because trains use significantly less fuel/carbon per person than cars do. Airplanes use the most fuel. Ships use the least. The Swedes have coined two new words: Tagskryt, meaning “train-pride,” and Flygskam, referring to “plane-shame/guilt.” Since these words gained traction, passenger train utilization in Sweden increased eight percent! Marshall McLuhan, the extraordinary Canadian University of Toronto media professor and philosopher who predicted the internet in the 1960s, commented that “Canadians would never abandon their cars because they like to sit in them to think.” Let’s hope he was mistaken about the former due to the climate emergency caused by vehicles’ carbon emissions.

There is a provincial election coming in Ontario. The current government surreptitiously promotes motoring-on by rewarding drivers with reduced user costs; just before an election, if one believes in coincidences. Myopically retroactively refunding vehicle licence registration fees, eliminating toll highway charges and lowering gasoline taxes is not only inefficient, but fecklessly regressive. Where will the money for road infrastructure and maintenance come from now? Let taxpayers fund the vehicle owners. Cars must be coddled because Ontario’s economy is addicted to them.

Building more high speed roads than high speed trains handicaps Ontario to uncompetitive obsolete transportation policies, both economically and environmentally. Increased electricity to run electric vehicles is to be generated by more natural gas instead of inexpensive, reliable, long-term carbon-free Quebec electricity contracts costing a fraction of Hydro One’s rates, which would be even higher if tax revenues were not artificially depressing still exorbitant Ontario electricity costs. If Ontario taxpayer subsidization of electricity costs works reliably politically, why would a government not apply the same cynical formula to transportation? What better opportunity for us to challenge these self-destructive policies than during an election?

These issues are vital because they indenture our grandchildren. These interconnected transportation and energy policies should be part of healthy upcoming election debates, as we exercise our priceless privilege of democratic, civilized self- governance. Let’s not despond, but rather act to make the system works positively for us.

Harald Simon