Thursday, April 12, 2007

Take A Hike!

This article points out one of the most devastating aspects of American domesticity, the multi-car family:
OSLO (Reuters) - Surging use of cars and planes will push up greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades, making the transport sector a black spot in a fight against global warming, according to a draft U.N. report.

"Transport activity is expected to grow robustly over the next several decades," according to a 101-page technical summary of a draft report by the U.N. climate panel, the most authoritative on threats from global warming.

The summary, to be issued on May 4 in Bangkok at a meeting of scientists and more than 100 governments, says efforts to curb emissions from transport "are faced with many barriers" despite options such as new engine technologies or biofuels.[...]

In some nations such as the United States, Italy and Australia car ownership is already 5 to 8 per 10 inhabitants -- 10 or 100 times more than in developing states.
The report stop short of condemning multi-car families or for that matter, suggesting limiting automobile and truck sales. Transport vehicles account for 26% of greenhouse emissions, according to the draft report (expect this report to undergo some more watering down before its May 4 release).

Admittedly, in nations like the United States and Australia, sheer geographic distribution of people, places and cities make multiple car households inevitable: when it's five miles to the nearest grocery store, you aren't going to walk or even ride a bicycle. However, steps to encourage at least more sane automotive practices could and should be in place. We've had enough warning, from the 70s OPEC oil crises to the global warming warnings we've had: smaller, lighter, and better designed vehicles, as opposed to mammoth SUVs in railroad parking lots ought to be de riguer, and a hefty penalty paid by those who insist on abominations.

I've advocated for decades now that SUVs and pick-up trucks ought to be taxed and insured as, well, trucks. That's what they are meant to be, and that's what they ought to be treated as. Further, I think people ought to be forced to upgrade their licenses to account for the fact that they drive a truck. As someone who has frequently driven parkways (designed for cars) and highways with massive hills, I can attest from personal observation that jamming on the gas pedal may make your truck move faster but it creates significant wear and tear on your engine and transmission and that manuevering a truck on a parkway is akin to making a cow water ski.

But any truck driver could tell you that.

By implementing my plan, I anticipate the demise of the SUV and pick-up, except where absolutely necessary, such as for farmers and others who need the extra carrying capacity. Of a truck. Those folks, however, would pay the extra premium and taxes because they'd need to. Cost of doing business.

And this is only going to get worse, as China and India start to reap the benefits of a growing economy. Of course, Chinese emission standards are higher than the US', even California's, which helps a little.

What is this need we have for mass consumption? Is it media fed? Is it psychological? Is it tautological, in that it appears out of nowhere yet gets self-reinforced in an echo chamber?

Is there, in fact, a sub-atomic particle of the mind that says "me want more"? Phrenology believes that "acquisitiveness" lies on the lower half of the temple, just in front of the ear, which may be why I get headaches watching commercials.

Is greed so vital to our psyches that it can't be soothed merely by possessing more, but more AND bigger? We know greed is an integral part of capitalism, but everyt economic system suffers from greed, so it must be part of human nature: people who live in communist and socialist regimes don't suddenly wake up one morning and start only taking what they need while giving all they can to society.

Gordon Gekko, in the movie Wall Street, speaks the immortal words written by Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser:
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.
Which is both true and not true. Greed, it's true, is an efficient taskmaster, but sometimes, along with the fat, it cuts bone and muscle.

And more important, it cuts corners. Life IS greedy, its true. Life is invasive, aggressive and competition for survival is what drives the entire living planet. But greed has coupled with its ideal partner in man. Man is capable of destroying the planet and nearly all life on it.

Maybe this is life's plan, through greed. Perhaps Noah's Ark is an omniscient metaphor for mankind itself, where the bulk of mankind represents the Flood, and Noah represents whatever mechanism (God?) that saves whatever life it can from man's predation and greed.

And maybe, indeed, Greed is God himself. As Zager and Evans put it in Exordium and Terminus:
In the year 7510
If God's a-coming, He oughta make it by then
Maybe He'll look around Himself and say
"Guess it's time for the judgement day"

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head
He'll either say "I'm pleased where man has been"
Or tear it down, and start again

In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing