Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Oil-Free

I welcome peak oil. I'm looking forward to the long emergency. When gas hits $10 a gallon, all those cars will finally get out of my way. As anybody who walks, bikes, or rides buses around them will tell you, "cars are obnoxious."

Cars are the leading source of air pollution, enough to change the climate. But that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pollution caused by cars and the infrastructure that supports them. Distillates from automotive air pollution and runoff from pavement combine to generate the greatest source of water pollution. They also generate noise pollution and light pollution, destroying the peace and quiet we all need. But the worst of it is what I call "social pollution."

A car is a deadly weapon. They kill more people than guns do. Nearly every US family has had at least one member maimed by a car. About the only species of animal that has benefited from cars is vultures, who feed on the roadkill. In sum total, cars are more horrid than wars, but we calmly accept their deadly presence in our midst. When we encase ourselves in a ton of steel and vinyl and dash about threatening each other, it has a detrimental effect upon the social order.

People on buses and trains have polite conversations. Bicyclists wave and pedestrians stop to lend a hand. Car drivers get road rage.

I've spent a decade without a car and ridden my bike across North America. The hardest thing about using a bike for transport is putting up with cars. I can't wait until those cars get out of my way. It will be so much easier to get around. It's not just the obvious risks to my life. The bright lights of automobiles in my eyes make it hard to see at night. The rules of the road are written for cars and don't fit bikes well.

I'm reminded of video that was recorded a decade ago in China. It shows the intersection of two busy streets, each jam packed with bicycles. There is no stoplight or traffic cop, yet the bikes sail through the intersection without slowing down. No collisions or problems occur. Now that is how transportation should work!

I don't think the end of cheap oil will be all that detrimental anyway. People lived well before the discovery of fossil fuels and none of the world's people waste oil at the rate Americans do. We can live without oil. Besides bicycles, we'll have sailboats. Lots of new technology, like human electric hybrid vehicles, will be useful. Even if transportation becomes a little slower, communication can continue to progress. We needn't give up mobility and interconnectedness.

Of course, we won't see as much of the oil-based plastics, short of what we can recycle. Slightly more expensive plastics can be made from vegetable oils. Perhaps the increased cost will inspire us to design products to last longer. The shift in consciousness from cheap, throw-away toward quality tools feels like welcome change to me. It feels good to contemplate a pace of life more attuned to the constraints of nature. It's like all of human society relaxing into our mother's arms.

2 Comments:

Blogger crallspace said...

Good article. I agree with most of this, and I too am tired of cars in the way. I especially "love" the pimped out, souped up Hondas and Dodge Neons that sound like zippy lawnmowers, their drivers racing ferociously to every red light.

Peak oil is kind of a happy fantasy for me to imagine as well, especially for the people in US society that won't have a clue what to do. Then, my friend, will we see Natural Selection at work. But I wish we could get a handle on it and make use of our resources responsibly, as quitting cold turkey is hard for everyone.

And once it happens, people will want to live where they can finally be "sustainable hippies" since no choice will be left - and they will move right on up here, and it will be worse than any flock of Californians.

I am a friend of Michelle's and I really hope your bike trip goes well. I will be at the event SAT night- perhaps I'll see ya there. In the meantime, I am going to link to you- will you be updating on the Journey from the road?

Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 8:13:00 PM PST  
Blogger Vernon Huffman said...

I'll try to blog from the road, when I'm not pedaling, caring for babies, or facilitating discussions. More details of the Journey are at http://www.emissariesofhope.org/. Thanks for your feedback.

Friday, March 2, 2007 at 8:00:00 PM PST  

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