Editorial | We’ll take ours without corporate interference | Drive-thrus | Whistler British Columbia

We’ll take ours without corporate interference

Whistler – Do you like going through the drive-through to get your coffee or to do your banking? So do we. It’s a nice, convenient alternative, especially when you’ve got kids in the car, to parking and hauling everyone out, doing your thing, and then packing everyone in again.

Increasingly, however, citizens are asking their communities’ leaders to consider banning drive-throughs — or at least future ones — because of the inordinate amount of greenhouse gases produced by the vehicles sitting in lineups. The vehicles are, after all, not really getting anywhere, and people standing in a similar lineup emit virtually no greenhouse gases.

The Vancouver Island community of Comox is the latest town in which the issue is being played out. There, according to the Comox Valley Record, a recent staff report looked at 18 different communities and how they deal with the issue, ranging from those who did not regulate drive-throughs, to those who limited where the could be built (such as Golden, where they’re only allowed along the Trans-Canada Highway) or banned them altogether (Qualicum Beach).

To us, the most interesting aspect of the whole debate is not that bans are being considered, but the way in which the corporate world is making its case for not banning or limiting them. In Comox, for example, a group called the Comox Valley Drive-Through Coalition is asking people to contact their lawmakers and express their opposition to a proposed ban on future drive-throughs. The owner of the local Tim Hortons is quoted in the Record as saying it’s a matter of “choice” for customers: “There’s a lot of people that have mobility issues… or they have children in the car, or they’re just in a hurry. Just the fact that drive-throughs exist show that people want them.”

Fair enough. However, the mere fact that this “coalition” is being led by businesses that already have drive-throughs raises our suspicion. Since no one at town hall is suggesting that existing windows be decommissioned, could it be that the business owners fear that that might be the next step? Or, perhaps, the folks back at head office for McDonald’s Canada or Tim Hortons are directing them to oppose this step out of fear that the movement will grow and prevent them, on a broad scale, from opening future drive-throughs, causing profits to fall?

The most onerous part of the corporate response to the growing anti-drive-through movement is the phenomenon in which the spin doctors try to cast doubt on the science of climate change as a way to oppose grassroots anti-climate-change measures. The Council of Canadians says tactics similar to those being used in Comox were first employed in Canada in response to a similar initiative in London, Ont. The Council is urging lawmakers in Comox to dismiss the corporate-led, pro-drive-through campaign.

“This strategy of ‘manufacturing scientific uncertainty’ comes directly from the industry’s denialism playbook,” Cory Morningstar, the Council’s London chapter president, said in a statement issued on Wednesday (July 1). “The industry invests big money for public relations campaign(s) 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.”

Personally, we’re convinced that while research into the speed with which climate change is accelerating is ongoing, the phenomenon is mostly human-caused and people can take action to slow or reverse its effects. Sitting in a drive-through lineup is no sort of God-given right. We’ll gladly give up the convenience if it means reducing the impact we have on the planet’s future.

In the meantime, we think vested corporate interests should butt out and let communities make these decisions on their own.


“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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