As the name suggests, every Friday Spacing will profile Facebook groups that are using the social network to articulate their experiences and share information about Toronto.
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This week, I searched through over 300 groups that are currently addressing Toronto pollution and smog. One over-arching theme seems to be Torontonians dedication to cheap, active, green alternatives to driving. Students in particular have been using Facebook to discuss how being environmentally friendly actually helps lighten their financial burdens. Bike2YorkU, for example, discusses the benefits of biking rather than driving to school and how having a car unnecessarily adds an average $8,500 to a student’s annual debt. Other groups address the issue of transportation more light-heartedly. I Can’t Drive . . . and I’m Proud Of It! for example, a group I myself am a member of, is for those of us who are willing to admit that they never bothered to get their licenses . . . and who want to try and justify it: it’s healthier to walk or ride, short-distance car travel is unnecessary, cars are expensive — between insurance, gas, repairs, tires, oil, etc. — driving harms the environment, and all in all cars are a luxury, not a necessity!
Other groups, including WeloBike and I support Wind Energy in Ontario, are using Facebook as a platform for creating awareness about the benefits of alternative forms of energy production in reducing pollution levels. I was shocked to learn that Welobikes, stationary bikes that create usable energy when ridden, can produce an average 50W/hour of electricity (and upwards 100W/hour for experienced cyclists); and, they’re actually being used in Toronto! The Gateway homeless shelter in downtown Toronto, for example, is currently using 12 Welobikes as part of a pilot project. Moreover, precisely because over 72% of new generation in Ontario is wind, these groups and others are providing accessible, up-to-date information about developments in a field that directly affects us as Toronto citizens.
Other coalition groups, such as the Toronto Environmental Alliance, are taking a broader approach to urban pollution (their Facebook group was just recently started). Outside of Facebook, TEA has over 8,000 paid members dedicated to being as politically effective as they are environmental. Using Facebook as a means of generating open-ended discussion, members of this group propose and discuss policy and infrastructure changes that they believe would help Toronto’s pollution problems. Suggestions have included eliminating street parking on Bloor and Danforth and replacing those curb-side parking lanes with a continuous Take The Tooker bike lane, creating a congestion tax, and perhaps applying a hefty increase to meter-parking rates and funneling that increase directly into TTC improvement, expansion, and modernization.
While these are but a few examples of the sorts of efforts and city-wide discussions that are taking place, the number of these eco-conscious Facebook groups continues to rise; as such, this social network is providing an accessible virtual forum for all Torontonians who are interested in urban pollution and smog prevention.