Comment une personne fait-elle le tour du monde?

Penser globalement, agir localement; c’est bien ce qu’on nous dit. Chaque petite action est importante et les efforts de chaque individu vont aider à apporter des changements et des améliorations dans l’ensemble.

Beth McLaughlin se penche sur les transports et la durabilité dans son article, et elle déclare que: "Cultiver une relation entre la ville et la campagne et valoriser les producteurs de nos aliments, ce sont là des étapes majeures dans la direction de la durabilité."















How does a person get
around in the world?

Beth McLaughlin,
People Against Nuclear Energy
February 2000


y foot, boat, wheelchair, wagon, ferry, bicycle, motorcycle, carriage, car, van, bus, truck, train, plane and roller blades, are just a few ways we get around. These modes have carried explorers, traders, workers, travelers and tourists to all corners of this planet. The path, the waterway, the sidewalk, the road or highway and even the air corridor complement these modes of transportation. We move about for a change of air, a change of scene, a search for an exchange, to make a living, to have an adventure, to live. Let us look at how we can lessen our impact on the earth.


Most Canadians have become very conscious of our behaviours and of the negative effects that our actions are having on the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in and the water we drink. Our quality of life is directly associated with the quality of our environment, but our social life is just as vital. The laws of the land and the political arena also have a great bearing on our quality of life.

What is the purpose of a highway? Is the best highway the "simple-minded single purpose" solution, the straightest line between two points, the lowest common denominator in construction costs? We have recently witnessed in this province this very approach to the choice of route of the Trans Canada Highway. Many people (environmentalists, lovers of the planet, of the Grand Lake Meadows) fought to include other values beyond speed and economics.

Suppose that nature is process, that it is interacting, that it responds to laws, representing values and opportunities for human use with certain limitations and even prohibitions to certain of these. Using this idea, many problems can be examined and resolved.

Ian McHarg, author of Design With Nature (1969), has the wisdom to suggest that resource values, social values and aesthetic values should be included, as well as normal criteria of physio- graphic, traffic and engineering considerations, when selecting a "highway alignment". In fact, the method to calculate the savings and costs of a proposed highway, says McHarg, should reveal the "highway alignment having the maximum social benefit and the minimum social cost". Note the word social is used twice in this statement. After all, for whose benefit is the highway? Of all things made, ultimately for whose use are they?   
In the selection of a route, McHarg's method incorporates the unseen and unforeseen potential of possible highway routes. Value added to terrain now accessible because of the new highway (or upgrading of an old one) must be balanced by the loss of such social values such as residential, agricultural and recreational. The balance sheet must also include historical and archeological values. Still on this side of the equation are costs because of impacts on wildlife and forest resources. Surface and groundwater resources and their potential must be factored in. Poor foundation and poor drainage (here again, were these values included in the decision to pave the Grand Lake Meadows?) must be accounted for. Structures, like culverts and bridges will elevate costs considerably (175 such structures are necessary for NB's new highway). McHarg emphasizes that beauty be incorporated into the choice of site selection or to enhance the contours and natural gifts of the land.

Let us move on to the vehicles riding on the highway. Before pointing fingers and condemning each other for expelling harmful substances into the air, we must look at the distribution of our food and goods. Fifty years ago, Canadians were far more self-sufficient food-wise, while today we have a greater selection and more fresh food, but at what cost? Who is growing the food, how is it grown? Where are the jobs in food production? Just thirty years ago, there were thirty thousand farmers in NB. Today, we have fewer than one thousand. Trucks travel across the continent belching carbon dioxide and heavy metals to deliver fresh broccoli to us. While delivering the organic oranges, they tear up the tarmac on both sides of the border, simultaneously contributing to global warming, climate change and the subsequent contamination of waterways.

Think Globally, Act Locally, we are told. Every little bit helps and each individual's effort will help bring change and improvements on the whole. Cultivating a relationship between town and country, valuing the producers of our food, are major steps toward sustainability. This adds vitality to our way of life in many ways: reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and their emissions into the atmosphere because less food is trucked across the continent and enhancing our own independence by buying meat, eggs and vegetables from our own gardeners and farmers. As economists note, small businesses generate more business.

Many of us live in towns of traditional design or the remnants of traditional town planning, where the shops and services, recreational facilities, schools and churches are at the heart of the living area within easy walking distance for residents. However, picturing towns like Sussex, Grand Falls, Shediac, Rexton, Campbellton and Bathurst, the heart no longer contains all those services. 

Does it take a litre of gas to buy a litre of orange juice? If it does, you understand a bit more about urban planning. The suburb is planned around the presence of the car. Wide streets and car use put distance between people. Though we may value our privacy, we complain about the breakdown of social ties, the lack of leisure time and of our busy lives. Jane Jacobs, the famous urban planner, writes that vitality, be it economic or social, is all tied together and must be so in design. 

(photo: NBEN-RENB)

The design of the city, to generate diversity (and therefore social and economic vitality), needs four 
essential principles or components.

1)The design must have mixed primary uses. This means that residential, commercial and even light industry are all incorporated into the neighborhood. Jacobs underscores that these neighborhoods are designed for safety by the very presence of business people, shopkeepers and even bar owners, who want peaceful streets in order to keep business flowing, and keep an eye on the streets themselves. These are accessible by foot, wagon, baby carriage, bicycle and roller blades.

2) Nice short city blocks, where people can pool together inadvertently, but create informal social links, including those with their neighborhood merchants. (Long blocks, the urban planners' favorite, tend to have everyone moving in the same direction, thus failing to create those social and economic pools).

3) Need for aged buildings. A mix of buildings, plain ordinary buildings, some fine renovated handsome old buildings and new buildings make for a variety of pocketbooks and enterprises whose revenue can handle the necessary rent or mortgage. If only new buildings exist, the high cost of construction will be reflected in the need for high rents. Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction, while foreign restaurants, locally-owned book stores and antique dealers go into small shops.

4) To generate diversity and social and economic vitality, concentration is needed. Concentration or density does not mean overcrowding. Now, density is a characteristic which no city in NB can really claim, as is evidenced by the parking lot which every big business, mall or employer offers up to its employees and clients.



Think Globally, 
Act Locally


Try to picture small parking lots, public bus stops at each corner, pedestrian and bicycle accesses, with the remaining huge spaces filled in with a mixture of affordable residences, a variety of shops and services. Contrast this to a new development in the far reaches of the town limits. This picture would 
keep infrastructure down costs for services (and taxes), add vitality and diversity to the area and reduce traffic because people can walk. The opportunity to walk rather than being obliged to get in a vehicle has countless benefits; fresh air, interaction with neighbours and moving at a pace benefitting a heart rate!  By providing alternative transportation options (to the sedentary-lifestyle- promoting car) in our towns, it is a good beginning.