You Can't Be Green And Drive That Machine (sm) (looong)
- YOU CAN'T BE GREEN AND DRIVE THAT MACHINE (sm)
(c) 2003 Lauren Cooper
Nowhere in our culture is change needed more than in our dependence on oil.
Oil underlies every aspect of Euro-American life, from transportation to
war to the food we eat. And nowhere is oil more used, more abused, and more
damaging to people and planet, than in transportation. Planes, trains,
buses, boats, and most of all cars, are the main reason we have a globally
toxic oil industry.
We all know this -- even the original hippies protested against cars before
they gave in to comfort and convenience. Nowadays, mainstream
environmental groups ignore the problem, and await in eager anticipation
so-called greener cars and cleaner tailpipe emissions. But one can't
ignore physics: cars require energy; and producing energy requires burning
Whether a car is hybrid, electric, fuel-cell or biodiesel, none eliminate
air pollution. Oil, natural gas, or coal must be burned at a power plant
to generate the electricity/hydrogen/biofuel for it. Massive machinery
and numerous toxic chemicals are still needed to maintain these power
generation and distribution systems. Current power-generating systems are
already at maximum capacity, so new ones will be needed. Whatever the
power source for the car, you have to burn something to create the power,
prepare it for use, and distribute it.
Changing the fuel solves only one problem. Manufacturing any new car
requires huge amounts of power, paint, plastics, petrochemicals, and more,
mostly derived from oil. This creates about ½ of the car's total lifetime
pollution. Millions of new electric and hybrid cars will need billions of
additional batteries, that add to the existing battery disposal/dumping
More cars still means more pavement, more parking, and car-jammed roads.
It continues the global traffic car-nage of 1-million people and
400-million animals killed yearly. It does nothing to solve toxic tire
dust in the air, and used tire disposal and dumping problems. Global oil
waste and spillage still occurs from distributing and refining oil for
energy, plastics, and petrochemicals.
And it still leaves the basic civil rights of tribal peoples worldwide
crushed under the flow of oil money. It corrupts smaller governments like
Nigeria and Venezuela, and cuts oil-exploration roads through rainforests
everywhere that bring in destructive settlers. To put it simply: you just
can't be green and drive that machine!
Bicycling Benefits Everyone!
Modern suburban living demands both local and long-distance transportation.
This is what most people want, and they WILL sacrifice the global
environment to have it! While environmental groups do good work in saving
a few areas of forest or wildlife, these have become just another
destination for the car-bound masses. The communities in which we live,
and the overall global environment, continue to be poisoned and polluted.
Mass transit looks good: but trains, buses, subways and trolleys also
require massive quantities of machinery, equipment, and toxic
petrochemicals for their manufacture, operation, and maintenance. While
tailpipe-efficient under full-use conditions, this massive machinery runs
whether it's filled with hundreds of people or, as is often seen, just a
few. It still requires the manufacture and use of 1000's of lbs. of
machinery per person transported.
Fortunately, one simple thing can help stop all this madness. The
simplest, easiest, most popular, immediately available, and most effective
solution is simply riding a bicycle whenever possible. Not cross-country,
not 100 miles or 50 or even 30, but just locally: to work, school, shopping
and errands; and carried aboard trains and buses for long distances.
Roughly 2-3 million bicyclists in the USA already do so, every day; and
millions upon millions more *want* to.
While people imagine bicycling to be something like ten times slower than
cars, in the suburbs an average bicycle commuter travels at about ½ the
speed of a car overall. The bicycle allows average people to maintain a
modern suburban lifestyle, with independent personal transportation, but
without massive environmental degradation.
The ruling force in every economy is money. Every dollar is a vote. A
dollar spent on local organic food is a vote for good food, better health,
a clean environment, and local control of production. A dollar spent on
gasoline is a vote for everything that we know is wrong with our world.
Every gas fillup gives oil companies the money with which to create global
pollution, corruption, and inequity. Your money pays them to do it. These
industries can't make the earth a toxic mess without that weekly allowance.
That's the most important and effective way to stop them. Bicycling is
the simplest, easiest way to do so, and improve your own life physically,
mentally, and financially as well (you keep the money).
BIKES? EQUAL RIGHTS
The real key to creating significant cultural change through bicycling is
to teach ourselves safe traffic cycling, and publicize the fact that every
person, young or old, without exception, already has a fundamental civil
right to travel on public roads -- in safety, and under the equal
protection of the law. Before the car, public roads in the USA were
already being paved for cyclists. There is no better way to remind people
of our rights than by cycling.
Our roads are shared, public roads. We do not choose with whom we share
them. Public roads are first-come, first-served. There is already plenty
of width for bicycles on every road; no special facilities are needed.
Politely taking enough space for your own safety is the essence of
asserting an equal right to the roads; even if you have to delay some cars
for 10-20 seconds. That is why this right is written in the law: it is the
heart and core of bicycling safely in traffic. The most experienced
cyclists politely, firmly, and legally use a full vehicle lane whenever
needed, and ride comfortably in a safe-space zone away from hazards.
Many suggest that we should abandon public roads entirely to cars, and
build millions of bike paths or bikelanes to create a fully segregated
system. Certainly some of these are useful: the extra road width from a
bikelane allows cars to pass without delay, and paths away from car-jammed
roads are more pleasant.
But abandoning our current rights to public roads makes less sense than
demanding that we be protected by enforcing existing laws. It takes the
same amount of our limited time and energy and political capital either
way. Get a bikelane built and it adds extra width to just one stretch of
road. Reintegrate cyclists as equal road users and it benefits every
cyclist, giving them as much space as needed on every road. Equal rights
for cyclists are already written into our laws; they just need publicizing
and enforcing. Equal rights is easier to promote because it is just common
sense and existing traffic law. Publicizing this actually improves
relations between cyclists, motorists, and police.
Bicycling for transportation, and publicizing the civil rights of cyclists
on our public roads, is an important way to help others get their rights as
well. It carries over to safe pedestrians rights; to children, the
elderly, and disabled having a right to personal transportation; to tribes
in Nigeria, the Amazon, and rainforests everywhere that are being polluted
by oil wells and drilling; and for everyone's basic right to clean,
healthful air and unpolluted water.
This is not some futuristic, when-conditions-are-better ideal. It's
already out there. We only need to publicize the traffic laws that already
exist on our public roads. We can each do so simply by teaching ourselves
how to bicycle cooperatively with traffic; and then riding a bike whenever
possible, every day. Every cyclist helps grow cycling even more. A
bicyclist on the road is instant advertising to thousands of imprisoned
motorists yearning to be free.
And freedom is really what it's all about: freedom from being car-bound,
unhealthy, always short of money, and wasting our planet. When drivers see
cyclists enjoying such freedom, they begin to think twice about the lack of
Thank you for your thought and consideration. And thank you for bicycling!
Ms. Lauren Cooper, CycleMedia Educational Advertising
Permission to copy and distribute with credit is granted.
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