Hanna and Diana alerted me yesterday that today is Blog Action Day 2009, and this year’s theme is climate change. So I’ve had about twenty-four hours to think about what I wanted to say in my contribution (oh help!).
Riding to work on the T (Boston subway) this morning, I decided the theme of this post would be transportation, specifically the need for transportation infrastructure that supports access for all of us to forms of transporation that are efficient, environmentally-friendly, and affordable.
Since I was old enough to understand about global warming and other environental issues, they have always been something I have felt largely terrified and helpless about. I feel helpless because ecological disasters seem so huge, so, well, global and beyond the capacity of individual actions to effect necessary change. In the American economy, at least, it seems like environmentally friendly, “green,” options have increasingly moved away from city-wide recycling programs or buying recycled paper products to activities that require a substantial discretionary budget: top-of-the-line hybrid cars (my family has never been able to afford a new vehicle), locally-grown fruits and vegetables (eating a balanced diet on our budget means buying cheap), alternative-energy electricity and heat (we take what our apartment building provides) and carbon offset credits (I’m just grateful I can afford to visit my parents once a year). We desperately need large-scale structural changes at the national and international level that provide all of us — urban or rural, poor or middle-class — with green transportation options that support our working and family lives. “Local” is wonderful, unless the folks you care about are spread across the country or across the globe. Walking to work is great if you can afford to live in the neighborhood where your job is located; public mass transit is also a great alternative to driving if you live in an area where the mass transit is reliable, frequent, and fast. Combatting global warming will only be effective if every single human being on the planet is able to live their lives in an environmentally sustainable way, and convincing individual people that environmentally sustainable lives are possible means making sure that “green” options are accessible to all.
I never could bring myself to watch Al Gore’s now-iconic An Inconvenient Truth, but a couple of years ago I watched a close cousin, the 2006 documentary Who Killed The Electric Car?. I’m going to close this post with a trailer from the film, which I thought provided a brilliant analysis of the tangled interests and complicated social factors that so often frustrate our attempts at environmentally-friendly innovation. The movie points fingers but stops short of demonizing one single interest group (eg. oil companies, car companies, politicians, the American public). It also manages to tell a story of failure (the electric cars in the film were, indeed, “killed”) while still offering the possibility of hope for future change.
Let us all, collectively, live up to our best possible selves as we move forward into an uncertain future.