Tuesday, July 29, 2008

EcoBliss: Car Freedom 101

An orchid from the botanical gardens that looks
just like a bee in the center.

Listening to: A blast from the past.

Today's Bliss Formula: Everything worked out with my new library job, so now I will work Mondays and Fridays only until 3. Lovely schedule for all the writing projects I have stacked up, staring at me, practically growling and showing their teeth from lack of attention.

Tonight I get to teach a class about car freedom at our local organic grocery store. I've never taught this type of material before -- usually I teach creative writing -- but I'm sure it will be fun. I just get so darn nervous beforehand!

So, the class is about making the transition from being completely car dependent to not being car dependent.

I am curious to ask them all why they are there. Is it purely motivated by high gas prices or was that just the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back?

Oh, by the way, yesterday we celebrated our 7th Anniversary of Car Freedom! And this year, I think we will manage to rent a car for the weekend fewer than 6 times, which will be a record for us.

After we all talk about why we are there, I want to go over the three main areas in which cars create ill health.

1. The Planet. This one is obvious. But I am not sure that people think too far beyond the impact of drilling for oil. Or creating a new "fuel." There is so much more to it than this. There is the construction of the car, for one. The toxic chemicals and the waste produced by the construction of one car are phenomenal and look at all the new cars that are made every year.

Then there is the pollution. And think of the heat an automobile produces and gives off. If you drive a hybrid, great, but it still produces heat. And, it still had to be built.

Cars need roads. This is a major area of destruction. All the animal and wildlife displacement is impossible to calculate.

Roads and cars and gasoline are all subsidized by the government, which takes away money from public transportation, education, health.

And of course, drilling for oil, the need for exorbitant amounts of resources creates war.

2. And all of that brings us to: Our Communities. To say that our communities are unfriendly to humans is an understatement. There are places where you can't even find a sidewalk.

The noise.

The crowdedness.

And again, the subsidies that take money from healthier, community building endeavors.

Not least of all, cars create barriers between us. People who don't walk in their neighborhoods, don't notice their neighborhoods. Then they don't feel connected to their neighborhoods and pretty soon, people are moving every few years looking for community. When community is just buzzing by outside their car windows.

3. Which brings us to the third area of ill-health: The Individual.

Why are we obese?

Why are we overly anxious?

Why are we angry and rushed and overbooked and overworked?

So many of these issues are tied into the car.

How many people have to have two incomes, really, to support their car habits?

After we go over all of this, we'll break into groups and write lists of things that we can't manage to do without cars.

The job of the larger group, then, is to debunk these lists.

This is exactly how my Frog and I did this. We listed everything and then challenged ourselves to figure it out.

Then we got on the road (ha!) to being healthier and happier and more involved in our own lives.

Here's the reading list I'll be handing out that is full of statistics for those of you who need that sort of thing:

Divorce Your Car, by Katie Alvord. THE must read. This book looks at every angle of the car issue and supplies all the statistics you could ever want. The amazing part is that the book is over ten years old and the stats were scary then -- so imagine now! Just a quick review of this book reminds me why we do what we do.

The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region, by Wayne Grady. I find that the more you know about your unique geography, the deeper your reasons for doing more to care for the environment.

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, by Jerry Dennis. A man born and raised in Michigan, an environmentalist, and a writer, Jerry Dennis helps to crew a tall ship from Lake Michigan to New York Harbor and on the way explores the geography and history of each Great Lake.

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life, by Chris Balish. A more recent look at car freedom.

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling
, by Selene Yeager. A good guide to getting started on a bicycle if it has been a while!

Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life
, by J. Harry Wray.

Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100
, by Roy M. Wallack.


Connie said...

Dear Christine,

I just wanted to add that yesterday I watched a program on tv that showed how in Canada they are mining tar sands in the earth that are rich in petroleum. This process not only is destroying the earth in one huge motion, it also releases far more pollution then any other fuel refining process on the planet. Canadian officials just recently stated in a Hong Kong conference their plans to stay true to their nature loving ways and to lower their pollution level. What they don't tell the public is that the incredible boom on tar sand mining has made their pollution level actually increase by 25%. The town where most of this is going on has become the new "wild west" of Canada, as people are flocking there to make money.

All I kept thinking is how archaic we have become. Instead of putting our energy, money, and time in moving forward, these people are using bad ideas from the past. There are two artsy little towns in AZ that I have been too: Bisbee and Jerome. Each one used to be a mining town. One can go there and enjoy art and see the horrible abuse we have done to this blessed Earth at the same time while you gaze into the huge abyss in the ground.

It saddens me to no end. Hansel and I are a one car family, and are both big fans of public transportation, bikes, and good ol' fashion walking! I applaud you in teaching your class tonight. I am grateful you are.

Peace & Love.

Anonymous said...

Want you to know that after reading your blog I am much more conscious of my decisions about walking,riding, or taking alternative forms of transportation. We recently became a one car family after having two vehicles for almost thirty years! Haven't noticed any inconvenience at all! My hubby is riding his bike to work at GE as often as possible. We walk a lot with the new puppy and the fact that we are urban dwellers. keep encouraging people to try freeing themselves from the vehicles. Its about time.

Anonymous said...

hi christine,
i hope your talk went well tonite, i am sure you were a big hit! you inspire me every day with your posts, keep em coming!
=jill in calif.

nollyposh said...

Christine X:-) I've proudly never driven or owned a car (although my husband always has) but we walk everywhere, my 3 children and l and we love it X:-) We know all our extended neighbors by name and have supported each other in all our daily trials and many a magical moment has been had at a local bus stop... I believe my children to be much more independent than their 'car dependant' peers because they have had to travel on the school bus without mum and dad and dare l say it 'fitter' too for all our walking. They are more confident in their conversations with others because such is the nature of traveling with others... We don't just see the world fly past the car window, we actively participate, shop local and our local bus drivers and retailers are our friends because we make more time to get to know them ...Why? Because we can... We have learned to slow down our lives and smell the flowers indeedie we do X:-) ...and do you know something else l've noticed...That people today think that it is not ok to walk in the rain X:-( How sad is that! Vicki x

blisschick said...

Oh, Canada, how can you disappoint us so!? This makes me very sad; I, like so many others, think of Canada as a bit on the advanced side when it comes to how they steward their land. And good job to everyone who even tries to cut back on their car usage!