Comox Drive-thru Issue | Industry’s Denialism Tactics Win Again

Exactly one year after the industry launched a glossy campaign in London, Ontario – industry has now duplicated the exact campaign in Comox, British Columbia in an attempt to ‘put out fires’ on an issue that garners more and more support as climate change continues to accelerate out of control. This strategy of “manufacturing scientific uncertainty” comes directly from the industry’s denialism playbook. The industry invests big money for public relations campaign to raise doubts about the increasingly definitive scientific evidence. They realize that if you could argue about the science, then you can stop municipalities from trying to address the problem. If the new ‘science’ which is bought and paid by industry doesn’t work, they fall back on the argument of ‘choice’ – whatever the risk to society, it the citizens right to do so. This is just another example of industry’s scientific consultants who specialize in product defense. Not unlike tobacco, oil and climate change. Corporate spin experts have recognized that manufacturing doubt works and if they do it well they can stop government legislation, or at least slow them down for years. This is a growing trend that disingenuously demands proof over precaution in the realm of public health. Organizations that support a ban on drive-thrus include organizations such as Greenpeace Canada and CAPE (Canadian Physicians for the Environment). Gordon McBean, appointed member of Mayor’s Sustainable Energy Council in London, ON and world renowned climatologist for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction urged the city of London to take action on all ways of reducing emissions as part of national and global efforts to combat climate change. Thousands of vehicles line up everyday in drive-thrus spewing unnecessary pollution into the environment.

Drive-thru report doesn’t recommend a ban

By Elaine Mitropoulos, Comox Valley EchoJune 26, 200

Town staff presented Comox councillors Wednesday with a report outlining some key trends that can be linked to drive-thrus, but stopped short of recommending a ban.

According to the report, it’s still unclear whether the fast-food fixtures pose a significant impact on the environment.

However, the report declared drive-thrus could have a wider implication on a community’s land use.

Instead of supporting pedestrian-oriented development, the report concludes drive-thrus foster automobile-oriented development, as they are convenient to only drivers.

“They may pose health and safety risks for pedestrians through increased vehicular traffic, noise and pollution,” the report reads.

It adds, with bright lights, noise from idling cars, queuing traffic, and people placing orders, drive-thrus generally don’t complement the residential character of a town.

To conclude, the report doesn’t recommend a ban.

Instead, it advises that any future drive-thrus in the town should adhere to LEED certification – a third-party ranking system designed to encourage sustainable building practices.

“This certification would avoid any ambiguity regarding environmental implications of drive-thrus and will ensure any environmental impacts are mitigated,” the report says.

The report comes in advance of a vote slated for July 15 to potentially ban future drive-thrus in the town – a topic that has sparked controversy in the community and beyond.

Should it go ahead, the ban wouldn’t take any existing drive-thrus away from the people who used them, like the elderly or disabled.

“It’s really about if we want to build our communities centred around people or centred around the automobile,” said Coun. Marcia Turner.

During the July meeting, the town will also review an anti-idling bylaw that has been adopted in parts of the Capital Regional District, a measure Mayor Paul Ives has been pushing for as an alternative to the ban.

In the meantime, the town is being flooded with phone calls, emails and letters from concerned citizens and businesses.

“There’s one theme that I hear very clearly through (the correspondence), ‘Don’t take our choices away,'” said Coun. Ken Grant.

“This is social engineering and we shouldn’t be (outlawing drive-thrus).”

Coun. Russ Arnott, who is for the ban, addressed concern that it could curb business and jobs in the town.

“When you move business from a drive-thru window, then you’re going to move it to the counter,” he said. “People are just going to shift.”

With a review of the official community plan slated to launch this fall, Coun. Patti Fletcher said the ban was a chance to be proactive in planning a more cohesive community.

“Personally I think anti-idling would be extremely difficult to enforce and monitor,” she added.

To come up with the report, staff contacted other local governments in B.C. and Ontario to learn about their experiences, if any, in regulating drive-thrus.

From the 18 communities that replied, the town learned that places like Qualicum Beach, Gibsons and Sidney banned drive-thrus in all commercial zones.

Places like Golden and Cranbrook, however, outlawed drive-thrus in their downtown core, but permitted them in highway and some commercial zoning.

Others had no experience regulating them at all.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008

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