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Pique n' your interest

SUV guilt

The word Porsche immediately conjures visions of the ultimate little sports car, hurtling down highways, hugging tight corners and handling like a dream.

Now, breaking a long tradition of producing the ultimate little sports car, Porsche is tapping into North America’s seemingly insatiable need for the ultimate Sports Utility Vehicle.

Joining other luxury names like Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Lincoln and Cadillac, Porsche is bringing the Cayenne to its 2002-03 line. It’s billed as the fastest SUV around.

What a ride it would be behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayenne.

I’m ashamed to admit it but in all honesty, I like SUVs.

I know I’m not supposed to. I know they spew more harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the environment than say a compact, fuel efficient Civic or Neon. I know SUVs are a major contributor to global warming, to smog, to poor air quality and the countless health related illnesses as a result of dirty air.

I know they guzzle gas as though the earth’s oceans and seas were made of petroleum rather than H2O.

I know the advertising companies have reeled me in hook, line and sinker, with promises of a better life with the great outdoors at my feet, nothing standing in the way of me and my SUV.

I know all this and still...

There’s just something that’s different about climbing into a big sturdy, boxy truck and cruising down Highway 99.

It makes for a much better ride than scrambling into a Pony to be at the sudden mercy of all the other reckless morons on the roads.

SUVs make you feel safe. Sitting up higher than mere car drivers, SUVs make you feel powerful.

I’ll admit it. I’ve been bamboozled by the advertising giants.

Unfortunately though, or perhaps more fortunately, SUV guilt is starting to eat away at me, gnawing away at my conscience. It’s wearing me down.

Only last month I was at a special AWARE meeting where the guest speaker was Vancouver City Councillor Gordon Price.

He was talking about the travesty of the North American highway system, the sheer number of cars on the road and our ridiculous love affair with the Sports Utility Vehicle.

It was inspiring and informative and scary, all at the same time.

And as I walked away, I sneaked up to the green Cherokee I was driving, hanging my head in shame, turning the engine quickly and ducking under the wheel, less any AWARE members catch my hypocrisy in action, cruising down Village Gate Boulevard.

It wasn’t fun.

I felt guilty because some part of me felt like I was doing the wrong thing.

I should have been taking the bus or riding my bike, or at the very least carpooling.

I should have been doing my part.

Now it’s getting harder and harder to drive my boyfriend’s Jeep these days, knowing what I know.

Here are some statistics from The David Suzuki Foundation. They’re not new. The information is all stuff that we’ve heard before.

In recent year’s emissions from SUVs, minivans and light trucks have increased by 60 per cent as more Canadians are buying fewer cars and replacing them with trucks.

These trucks produce an average of six tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, as compared to four tonnes produced by cars.

Dangerous GHG emissions from the transportation sector make up almost 50 per cent of all emissions in Whistler.

We have made SUVs and minivans and pick up trucks an essential part of our car culture. Just count them cruising through town or parked in the day lots.

And we don’t need to go into the even more alarming statistics about the environmental impacts from those increased GHG emissions that come from, among many other things, our SUVs and minivans.

We know all about those stats that point to melting glaciers, higher temperatures, holes in the ozone, rising sea levels, freaky weather patterns. It’s getting a bit repetitive. It’s also getting scarier.

And still we love our SUVs.

Compared to the average car, SUVs use up more resources to build, being bigger and heavier. By that theory they use up more resources to transport to the dealers. They use up more resources to run, guzzling more oil and gas.

We know all this and still we love our SUVs.

We also know the Kyoto Protocol is just the first step of many to get this situation under control.

When Canada finally ratifies the Kyoto Protocol at Christmas, all Canadians will be expected to make a difference and make some change to the status quo.

We will all be expected to put plastic over windows to keep the heat in the homes.

We will be expected to reduce, reuse and recycle and compost to keep our landfill levels down.

We will be expected to take fewer planes and drive shorter distances in an effort to curb emissions from transportation.

Most certainly we will be expected to get out of our SUVs and into more fuel-efficient cars or onto public transit and our bikes.

For most of us it will be a slow change, there’s no doubt about that.

But there is hope.

I see that hope each time I drop off my recycling and see the cars, most of them SUVs lined up at the recycling centre in Whistler, with trunks full of empties.

Most of us couldn’t throw an empty can of coke into the garbage because we have been conditioned to recycle.

Now we have to condition ourselves to fall out of love and end the affair with our SUVs.

It’s not going to be easy but guilt can be a powerfully motivating force.