No idling? I really don’t care, do you?

From the Top of the Pile


My kids’ elementary school has no idling signs in front of it. The school got some accolades when they were put up a few years ago. Some media attention was fawned on it. Wonderful for them.

I hate to say this, but I really don’t care what the sign says. If I am picking up my kid because there is a -30 C wind chill, I’m going to keep my vehicle warm. And if it’s 30 above, I’m going to keep my vehicle cool, too, lest we pass out from heat stroke.

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Apparently North Dakota has had a law on the books since the 1940s prohibiting unattended idling, then considered a deterrent to auto theft. Now, locking your idling vehicle is a good idea. But not starting it and allowing it to warm up, or stay warm when needed, is idiocy.

There’s now a movement in North Dakota to punt the stupid anti-idling law, and not even the Sierra Club is opposing such efforts. The Associated Press reported on Jan. 7, “Even environmental group Sierra Club is not standing in the way of the effort to make idling legal. Wayde Schafer, the group’s North Dakota spokesman, said banning idling vehicles is futile in North Dakota, where it’s considered a necessary evil because of brutal winter weather.

“It’s so engrained in our culture and people will never change their habits even if they know it’s against the law,” Schafer said. “It’s part of winter in North Dakota, and people want to get into a warm car, so what do you do?”

I see such signs as the unfortunate spinoff of the virtue-signalling culture that has taken over the political climate in North America, especially from the current federal Liberal government. Who needs cabinet ministers chosen for competency instead of ones chosen solely on the basis of their chromosomes? Because it was 2015, didn’t you know?

So what is virtue-signalling, really? I would say it’s a cross between holier-than-thou and rubbing your nose in my holier-than-thou. I’m woke, you aren’t, and I’m going to make a show of it.

No idling zones imply many things. First, we, the poster of the said sign, think we have dominion over all around us, including, apparently, public streets, like those in front of the school. We are asserting ourselves regardless of our legitimacy or ability to do so.

Secondly, we think that our values – reduced exhaust emissions, which equates fewer carbon dioxide (and therefore greenhouse gas) emissions – will somehow “save the planet.” (So, too, will holding your breath until you’re not emitting CO2, either, but they kinda fall down on that point.)

Third, they imply that if you are so boorish as to idle your vehicle needlessly (and I, the proclaimer of the no-idling zone, am the judge of needful and needless), then you are a bad person. Shame on you.

Fourth, my values (save the earth from climate change) are more important than your values of seeing through otherwise frost-covered windows and not driving over the neighbours’ children.

Now, it’s kinda hard to tell some well-meaning, brainwashed kindergarten kid that their teachers are in fact indoctrinating them into a certain world view, but there it is. That’s what no-idling zones are.

We, in Western Canada (and our cousins to the south, in North Dakota), live in this little thing called an extreme environment. This afternoon, it was warm enough to walk around with my jacket open. By tomorrow, the wind chill is expected to be -30 C and a storm is expected to blow through. Hot, cold, we live through all of it.

That’s precisely why looking down on Canada for our greenhouse gas emissions, especially when considered per capita, is ludicrous. Yeah, Saskatchewan has high greenhouse gas emissions. You ever live here? It gets damned cold in winter. Cold enough you might need to warm up your gas-guzzling SUV. No amount of Kyoto, Copenhagen or Paris accords is going to change that, nor will signs on school fences. As for electric cars, I don’t think their batteries are going to do well against -40 C.

I think part of the recent uprising in Western Canada, with the protests, rallies and convoys, is related to a rejection of the never-ending virtual signalling we’re being force-fed. The people, many wearing yellow vests, are saying, “We’ve had it up to here with your crap. We live in the real world, and we need our government to acknowledge that.”

As many of those in the rallies have said, the world isn’t powered by unicorn farts.

I would add that unicorn farts don’t keep my windows defrosted, either.

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at

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