Yesterday, all across the country, there were peaceful demonstrations about global climate change. The purpose was to raise awarenes and consciousness. From awareness and consciousness, one hopes, comes change.
Yesterday in my home town paper, there were dozens of articles about global climate change, how we as first worlders impact it, and what we can do. Everything from incandescent lightbulbs (How many governers does it take to change a lightbulb?) to transportation (Seattle’s master bike use plan) a million small changes that add up to big cultural change at the family home level.
Exciting times. I was talking with some friends about all the stuff happening, and explained my blog–my personal transportation game–where I’m trying to become conscious of car usage, see if there’s a reasonable, workable way to ditch my car at some point in the future, and what I’m learning in the process. It seemed a good time to review some of these ideas here and also some of the conversation that ensued yesterday.
I started the “My life w car” series as a year-long plan to be conscious of transportation habits, dependencies, etc. The hope was that some day we could become a one-car family with lots tasks and travel delegated to bike, bus or flexcar. My secret hope was that it would all happen quickly and easily. Wrong.
Some of my rules around this transportation game: no single use trips (unless it really really can’t be avoided); multi-passenger use whenever possible (task combos); at least two days of non-carbon based transportation per week; improve bike mileage by 10 miles minimum per month. Obviously, the rules won’t work sometimes–last week was sort of a bust. But they work more often than not, for sure.
After 65 days, what I’ve learned: I’m not a big car person, I don’t really drive a ton or put a lot of focus on my car and I really don’t have an attachment to it. But even with my limited dependence on a car, I have found, after 65 days, that limiting one’s use of a car is dang difficult. Our entire culture is built around cars, about zipping here and there, about the luxury of simply not having to plan, think, or consider one’s dependence on cars at all.
Now, if we are really expecting people to reduce their automobile usage, combine trips, use mass transit, or bikes, there’s going to have to be some serious-ass change in our culture. A willingness to revise time and access across a lot of channels to make this work. Mass transit has got to be better than it is, biking has to be safer, and jamming schedules with non-stop action and to-do lists will have to lighten up. I’ve done it, to a degree, and while it’s been hard, I have to say: I’m happier for it. But the point is, this is a massive change on a massive scale…but it will all start at home, in your own backyard.
Upshot: after talking about these learnings with my friends, and coming to the conclusion that it would be very difficult to jettison one’s car in the near term, we turned our attention, each of us, to how we could reduce our daily car use by one or two days a week. Carpooling, bus, combining trips to reduce trips, planning ahead…all the things I’ve started to incorporate into my thinking on a regular basis.
We are learning creatures (nice article here): it’s what we do best, and on a continual basis. Not saying we learn good things, just saying we are constantly in “adapt” mode, which means learning. This key feature may be what saves is in the end.
(One among us who is clearly lagging behind on the learning curve, however, is discussed here. Oh, Dear Leader! Once he’s outta the way, though, maybe we can actually begin to build a future instead of destroying it)
days without carbon trans: 0
car: 18 miles (multiple tasks, two riders)