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Ways of staying (Part 1)

April 12, 2012

I heard on 702 Talk Radio this morning that the National Planning Committee predicts that an additional 15 Million people will move to South African city centres in the next few years. This is extremely concerning as we’re already bursting at the seams. More people means less space, greater demand on transport, greater demand on water and electricity and waste removal. It will lead to more pollution is all forms and somehow we have to make it work because we have to live here.

This is obviously a vast topic so I will be mulling over it in small chunks over the next few weeks and even months. Watch this space.

The first thing I would like to address is transport:

We all know cars guzzle fuel (creating demand on a very expensive commodity) and spew out exhaust fumes (pollution) which is bad for the environment. There is also noise pollution to consider and owning a car means you need space to park it – less space for anything else. They also adversely affect our pockets because fuel is so expensive and cars are expensive to buy and maintain. Yet there are thousands of people who get into their cars in order to get to work. My greatest sympathy falls with the people who travel between Pretoria and Johannesburg every single day. Sit in traffic every day. Complain about it just about every single day. Time is also money so there is also another form of waste linked to your choice to take a car.

I say choice because lately, in urban Metropolis Gauteng, we have a choice – several actually.

If you live close enough to work, and don’t have to dodge too many taxis, walk or ride a bike or scooter. You will be saving significantly on space on the road and carbon emissions and traffic will basically not effect you. Middle to upper-class South Africans have been spoilt by a driving culture and so walking or cycling seems completely obscure to us but it’s done with great success in other places of the world. I’m thinking about doing this in the near future. I have massive uphill to consider and it will probably tkae me 45 minutes but that could be my gym routine taken care of as well. Give it a try -good for the world and good for your figure.

If you commute to JHB every day from PTA think about doing it on the Gautrain. I know it doesn’t necessarily save you time or money (both being about equal to what you’re already spending) but I am sure it will save you stress. Also, it is a lot more environmentally friendly so think of the planet as well. I can not imagine how you would rather sit in a slow-moving car on a filthy highway trying to dodge impatient drivers when you could be reading the newspaper or your kindle on a quiet train that will get you to your destination on schedule most days. The next time you’re stuck on the N1 notice how many cigarettes butts lie next to the highway as a result of stressed people idillying along and having a smoke as they go. Gross – where do you think those butts end up?

Carpooling is also a foreign concept to most of us but it’s a great option. So many of us work in close proximity to thousands of people and I find it hard to believe that none of those people work close to you. Take your eyes off your computer screen long enough to ask around if carpooling from your area may be an option. You can save a lot of money, space and carbon emissions. You may still get stuck in traffic (though it could be considerably less if more people car pool) but then you can use the time to make friends with your fellow commuters. My one colleauge lives three blocks from my house so when I start walking to work she can always drop me off on her way home. She literally drives home one road up from my house anyway.

Trying new things seem difficult and cumbersome if you’re sitting in your routine and kind of manage despite the disadvantages – just try something new or different for a change and the advantages may astound you. This is a green tip that actually benefits you more than environment I reckon.

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