Friday, July 25, 2008

Greener Than Thou

This morning I read an article on Alternet, by a man who gave up having a car: Living Without a Car: My New American Responsibility. It was a rather insulated look at living a carless lifestyle in a city with excellent public transportation that ignored logistical realities that would make this a highly impractical choice for many Americans living in other areas for various reasons.

Many comments to this article were self-righteous, elitist, and dismissive of those who gave valid reasons of why such a drastic choice wouldn't be right for them. Several comments seem to be an exercise in greener-than-thou one-upmanship.

My response is as follows:

In Some Areas, Going Carless Means You Depend On People With Cars

Like many of the commenters above, I live in an area where public transportation is extremely limited, where most people live miles from their jobs and shopping areas, where taxi service is limited and expensive, where it's hot 9 months out of the year, and where much of the area is unsafe and impractical for bike travel.

Add to this the truth that most employers, at least in my area, see a person without a car as being by definition unreliable. Indeed, I've filled out job applications where applicants are asked how they will be getting to work each day, and if they have a car.

In my area, unless you live next door to your job and/or the grocery store, Wal Mart, the doctor's office, the school,etc, you spend a lot of time depending up on other people with cars, waiting around for them to come pick you up at their convenience. Instead of becoming independent, you have increased your dependence on the goodwill of people with cars.

Going carless may work in cities where public transportation is plentiful and reliable, but it's impractical in many other places. A one-size-fits-all solution won't work any better here than it does with most other sorts of problems. Nor does an all-or-nothing approach.

I drive a small car. I don't go joyriding anymore -- I plan my trips and routes carefully, so as to use the least amount of gas. I stay home more. I shop online often. These are small steps, but they are steps and they are easy and practical to do, which makes adhering to them more likely.



Kathy said...

I'd love to bus to work every day, but that's not my reality. As you stated, there are just too many obstacles to getting around without a car, unless you live in a dense city with excellent transportation. In a perfect world....

Dee Jay said...

I would love to be able to walk to the subway and hop on each day. I live four miles from my job. Sure, I can bike for part of the year, but that would be extremely difficult in the middle of a January snow storm. Bikes and multiple feet of snow don't go well together!

Like you, I drive a small car that gets good mileage. I bought it for that reason. I have also dropped back the speedometer a lot. I now only drive 60 on the freeway. It's amazing to see how much gas and money I am saving.

The guy should be commended for giving up his car, but he should also realize that it's just not possible for a vast majority of Americans to do so. I'm glad you spoke up there.