I’m struck by the way the Toronto Star, every now and then, presents information that might actually deliver a knockout punch to its main advertiser, the car industry.
Oh, you’ll hear them on the editorial page whining about the importance of the “backbone of the Ontario economy” (by which they decidedly do not mean small business), and they certainly like to lay into cyclists, bikelane proposals, and city budget allocations for “car-free day.”
And while they fulminate in favour of the proposed bill to require drivers and passengers of “wheeled vehicles” to wear helmets, they have yet to see that unless drivers and passengers of cars are included, this bill is discrimination against human power.
All of which is music to the ears of the car advertisers who pay the Star to spread its pages.
But even so, the ugly reality occasionally sneaks in.
Take for example, the opinion page of March 7, 2005. There you can read (if you have access to the paper copy of that issue) an article called “Sprawl isn’t healthy–physically or mentally” by Jan Kasperski (executive director and CEO of the Ontario College of Family Physicians).
This article, nicely laid out across four columns of type at the top of the page, is so strongly stated and presents such indictments of the automobile industry that the opinion page editor’s job, no doubt, is now in jeopardy.
I mean, there is no way the automobile advertisers, whose handiwork fluffs up the Star’s content (and its payroll, one assumes) to such an extent, will tolerate much of this kind of abuse. Heads will roll.
Just listen to Kasperski’s heresies: “…living in car-dependent, sprawling urban commmunities contributes increased risk factors for a number of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
“In addition, increased driving and thus higher vehicle emissions, contribute to air pollution, with attendant negative impacts on our health.
“The evidence shows people who live in car-dependent communities are less likely to walk and… suffer more from a variety of serious conditions including obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular and other diseases, at great cost to our health-care system.”
Kasperski adds: “Accidents and fatalities affecting pedestrians, motorists and cyclists increase in sprawling, lower-density communities, as do mental health impacts like stress, road rage and anxiety.
“Road accidents represent the most underestimated risk that people are exposed to in everyday life. Across North America, thousands of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists are maimed or killed each year.”
I wish I could provide a link for you to read the opinion piece in full.
But guess what? Among the thousands of stories and opinion pieces the Star presents every week, there simply have to be some that don’t make it to the on-line version. This opinion piece was left on the cutting room floor.
Of course, you can read the report itself here: http://www.ocfp.on.ca/English/OCFP/Urban-Sprawl/. Should you bother? Only if you want even more hard knocks to your car-needin’ ways: “Many people move to the suburbs in order to escape the perceived “ills of the city”. Although there appears to be many benefits to suburban life: less exposure to noise pollution, less overcrowding, decreased stigma and fear of crime, and a greater experience of nature, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the negative health impacts are enormous and ultimately far outweigh these benefits. Escape from crowding can lead to extreme anonymity and isolation that results from a loss of community. As a sanctuary from life stress, sprawl communities have increased loneliness, inactivity, depression and commuting stress with which to contend. Ironically, the promise of increased contact with nature is contradicted by the fact that sprawling development reduces the amount and quality of natural areas.”