Friday, March 14, 2008

Of Sense and Responsibility

I recently received a well-intentioned-but-completely-misguided approach to the current gasoline "crisis." Quoting a powerful but unnamed "executive from Coca-Cola," this email virus ("send this to 30 people!") seemed to say two things; first, that WE, the masses, could not stop buying gas; and second, that this whole thing could be solved, not by a boycott, but by a boycott of ExxonMobile filling stations, who, faced with losing money, would force the rest of the world to reduce the price of fuel.

"Not this time, Virginia; there is no Santa Claus." we have to do this ourselves, by Not Buying Gas.

Lookit, Kid, by imagining Exxon/Mobile as the boogey man, you are just pushing your peas around on the plate; you still have to eat them. The ONLY way to reduce the price is to reduce the demand.

Each of us has to start by reducing their own demand. This is like a good exercise program. Go ahead and start small, and then work from there. It requires imagination. Not the "save the world now" kind, but the everyday kind, the little ideas that used to make their way into "Hints from Heloise" in the paper. How many ways can we think of? Chances are that Nobody can figure out huge reductions right away, but, if we are all thinking about conservation, every little bit saved will help. Here are some that I have heard of;

1) MEASURE how much fuel you are/have been using. POST the numbers on the kitchen wall, where you can see them, each week.
2) Attempt to Reduce that by 20%
a. Plan shopping, only go twice a week
b. Work at home 1 day (and don’t drive anywhere)
c. “Carpool” with neighbors to shopping
d. Attempt to carpool or use mass transit one day per week
e. Aggressively measure your fuel bills and keep the results where you can see them every day.
3) House/Office temp: 65 winter, 75 summer
4) Buy on internet, delivered by Postal Service (at home: unlike UPS/FedEx, they drive the route daily, regardless)
5) Find non-travel ways to amuse ourselves
a. Bridge clubs, book clubs, garden clubs
b. Get to know your neighbors & try to 'carpool' to events
c. Think back to those old community organizations and traditions that were probably hold-overs from when transportation was scarce.

Communities need to try to become community-oriented again. In our attempts to become more diverse, embracing all traditions and cultures, the places in which we live have become equally strange to all. Everybody drives away to meet friends and to Do Stuff. Cheap transportation means we don't actually have to live with the neighbors. That requires effort.

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