one of the days i was at clingman's dome, listening, i overheard a couple of people discussing the signage that explained the perpetual haze as a result of air pollution from vehicle traffic. 'what do they expect is gonna happen?' one of them asked in frustration. 'we all drove our cars to get here. it's not like we can just not get back in them to go home.'

rarely do i find it worthwhile to confront people in this situation anymore, but my rehearsed responses stick to me. 'of course you have to drive home,' i'd say with understanding, while sitting on my motorcycle that i also clearly used to contribute to the toxic haze. 'drive home, but think about this when you get there. think about if you can carpool to work, or if you can walk to the store in your community, or if you can change your habits of idling in the parking lot while waiting for someone to run in for a gallon of milk.'

i think about my own suburban adolescence, where the middle school, half a mile from my house, banned me from walking because there was no crosswalk cutting through the busy throughway. 'vote in local officials who will prioritize safe walking infrastructure for your children,' i'd ask them. 'be a good example to your neighbors by driving safely.'

i can advocate for a lot of these things because i have the luxury of living within a few miles of where i work and play, i have the luxury of a body that can take me places without needing a device that burns oil or gas or coal, i have the luxury of possessing the willingness to engage with streets that are not quite optimized for my mode of travel. i also have access to a car, and a motorcycle, and the frequent offers of rides to faraway places or during inclement weather, but i cannot participate in using those without feeling a heavy guilt. leave that seat in the car for someone who cannot ride their bicycle to the store; let that cup of gasoline be burned for an urgent need, not my instantaneous comfort.

i don't know if anyone will listen to me, though, so i keep my mouth shut when i hear them complain about dirty hippies pressuring them to give up their cars. i don't want anyone to give up something that gives them freedom and happiness; i also don't want anyone making a regular decision that commits us to a path that seems to steadily narrow towards a destination choked with poison and riddled with dangerous travel.

07 March 2018 23:21

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