Monday, December 7, 2009

Global Warming: Who cares?

There's been much debate lately about whether global warming is "real." Since that long-desired northwest passage is emerging due to melting ice ... my feeble mind says global warming is "real." Is the warming caused by greenhouse gases and carbon emissions produced by industrialism or is it just a natural fluctuation in the earth's temperature? I certainly don't know but it seems a tad suspicious to me that 50 years ago or more scientists started worrying about this possibility and devising models that showed that carbon emissions would warm the earth ... and voila, everything seems to be happening as they hypothesized, only faster.

I'm certainly not one to bow and worship at the idol of science. I know science can get things terribly wrong. Words like lobotomy and thalidomide dance through the brain ...

So perhaps science has it wrong. Maybe we can continue to flood the highways with ever more cars and throw ever more heat into the atmosphere and the earth will do what it will--heat, cool, stay the same--paying we humans as much mind as a gadfly. Maybe it doesn't matter. I don't believe that--I do believe our lifestyle, for lack of a better word is having an effect on the planet and not a good one-- but for me, the underlying issue is not solely whether cars, for example, are adding to global warming. Avoiding destroying the eco-system is important (I do care) but so is another question: do we want to live in a car-dependent culture?

And for me the answer is no.

Even if (here I can fantasize for a moment) cars are having no environmental impact, all the same, from a quality of life standpoint, it's dystopic for so many people to spend so much time sitting locked in traffic in little metal cubes that burn up money. It's dystopic not to have a choice. In addition, highways are dead space. How many communities have been broken by having a highway cut them in half? How much sense of geography and place do we lose when we drive around all the real places to get where we are going on highways?

OK, I'm throwing a mishmash of issues into the pot, and none of what I am saying is new. However, I seem to need to say it.

I have no answers, but I think if we can alter the debate or at least add the question of "how do we want to live," maybe we could make a little more progress. Maybe if we stopped assuming that cars are the be all and end all that have to be defended at all costs, we could stop arguing solely about whether they're contributing to global warming and ask: Are they really THAT important? Do we really want to be so dependent on them?

Just a thought.

Should we--brothers and sisters from another planet-- start a "bring back the buses" movement?


Hystery said...

Yes. Leaving aside the environmental issues, however critical, we need public transportation. Even out here in rural Upstate New York, we used to have commuter trains and trolleys. They disappeared when the automobile became popular. Recently, a local railroad company has begun providing passenger service and we do have a small bus service for folks who need it but both services are inconvenient. Such would not be the case if they were integrated into a broader network of public transportation such as is found in Europe.

The car has changed American geography and demographics. Our population is sprawled. Our community centers are displaced. Rather than having shops, businesses, and public services clustered around population centers, we now have clusters of shops, businesses, and public services clustered together apart from housing forcing people to drive to reach them. This is especially true in rural and suburban America where work, school, and shops can only be reached by driving. It is an easy walk to Main Street in my town but there is no longer anything to buy there. We have to drive twenty minutes to the nearest Miracle Mile even to buy groceries. My parents fondly remember when you could buy everything you needed in town and you knew all the shopkeepers. What we have now is an increasingly impersonal commercialism that is bad for the environment, bad for small business, and bad for our communities.

Diane said...

Yes, agreed.