An editorial in last week's Baltimore Sun got me to thinking. The story, for those not clicking: When aggressive government subsidies allowed Swedes to easily purchase electric hybrid cars, use of the cheap-to-run cars, and concurrent pollution, went up. The hypothesis is that if cars are cheaper to run, people (being morons) will take that as a green light to use them more. In fact, considering how normally environmentally conscious Swedes are, we could expect an even greater overuse in electric cars in America. If we overuse cars now when it's expensive, just you wait, rest of the world! We'll drive from here to the next block, just because we CAN. (Oh, shit, we already do that? Nevermind.)
This article made me wonder about whether I'd be so anti-car if fully electric cars became mainstream, and really did cost some ridiculously small amount of money per day to run, and didn't kill the environment. Say that they actually, in some science fiction twist, helped the environment. How much of my hatred of cars is due to the environment, and how much is due to the fact that I hate and suck at driving? The answer: it's almost all because I hate and suck at driving. If there were an electric car that was somehow better for the environment than my bicycle, thereby making me the awful polluter, I would continue to rail against cars and sprawl. My reasons for being an anti-car/pro-walking/biking advocate are not altruistic, but selfish. Ayn Rand did teach me something, after all!
Oh, there's other reasons to hate cars besides the damage they do to the environment. Truth be told, even before having this epiphany last night, the environment wasn't even in the top five list of why I hate cars. (Want the top five? Driving's boring, They're expensive, They're dangerous, Sprawl Sprawl Sprawl, Biking/walking helps me think in ways driving doesn't.) Maybe we'll render the Earth uninhabitable by 2100 through our own actions, but I'm not going to live that long! But meanwhile, I DO have to live in a world where you can't (in most places) get a job without a car, where walking or biking to the nearest grocery store can be a minefield, where your choice of transportation (and once I do get a license, not driving WILL be a choice for me) informs your life decisions instead of merely being the way you get from Point A to Point B.
The fact is, the way we live now--especially in the suburbs--is not healthy and it's not because of smog or obesity. It's because when you remove the place you work from the place you live and the place you play, it creates a fractured kind of existence. Hell, we even have a separate place to get exercise, instead of getting it just from our daily interactions with society. I'm not a spiritual person, but I'll be damned if this fracturing isn't at the root of a lot of what's wrong with the world and with our selves. And that's my high-horse bicycle advocacy moment for the day.