Climate decisions in a car-reliant country

This is my first post for a while. I have been a bit overwhelmed by other work in the last several weeks, with teaching and other commitments, and the blog has sadly suffered. But I’m still here.

This morning, while sitting in a car in the permanent traffic jam through the Waikato Expressway roadworks south of Hamilton, I was reflecting on why I was there. I mean, why am I sitting in a car in a queue of traffic, adding more carbon dioxide to an atmosphere that already has too much. Before trimester started here at the University of Waikato, I was working from home quite a lot. That was one thing I learnt from lockdown – it is actually possible to work from home, and in many ways quite desirable too. But now I have on campus teaching every weekday, and I need to be on site. Today’s teaching: A workshop on climate change. In order to help students learn about some climate change concepts, I get in my petrol car and park it in a traffic jam for twenty minutes. There’s something deeply wrong about this.

Yes, before you ask, I have made a submission to Waipa District Council and Waikato Regional Council on their ten year plans (here and here) and highlighted (amongst other things) that public transport in and around Cambridge needs some considerable improvement.

We have the two-week mid-trimester break coming up, and yes, I shall be working at home (when I’m not on holiday).

It’s not just the travel to work that’s a dilemma. I have a couple of meetings in Wellington coming up soon that I should be attending, in person. How does one travel from Cambridge to Wellington? Here’s some options:

  1. Drive to Hamilton airport (this is only about 20 minutes away even on a bad traffic day) and get on a plane. Easy, quick, safe and often surprisingly cheap (and for one of the meetings I won’t be paying). But the climate cost isn’t so flash.
  2. Get hold of an electric car and drive to Wellington. Slow, takes a bit of organization, and where does one park? Also, an extra night accommodation at both ends of the meeting is required.
  3. Take a bus. Easy to do, can be done overnight (so no extra accommodation required) reasonably cheap,  and judging from a story I recently heard from a family member, a deeply unpleasant experience where one is subject to random acts of unkindness from passengers and drivers alike. No thank you.
  4. Drive to Hamilton or Otorohanga, park the car and take the train. This costs a bit more, but is pleasant (judging from my one experience of doing this some years ago) but slow. There’s the risk of the car being stolen or vandalized (I wouldn’t want to park overnight at Hamilton train station…), but the real downside here is that the train only runs three times a week, each way. To get there for a Monday, I’d have to travel on Saturday, and spend two further nights in Wellington. Lots more time and cost. Or I travel on a Monday and miss the first day of the meeting. So this option isn’t really going to happen (unless the timetable has changed from last time I looked).
  5. Zoom. Well, it’s an option, but an exhausting one for three days, and I’ve been asked to go in person anyway.

Aotearoa New Zealand really does need to sort out its transport options.






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