5.14.2009

Rich Oil Sheiks Seek to Ride Public Transit


When the rich oil sheiks are calling for public transportation systems, then you know you have to make the big, hairy, and audacious shifts from a petroleum-based, cheap oil economy to a more environmentally sustainable version: "Making Tracks." Everyone's oohing and aahing about the "green economy," but few, it seems, are willing to make the really painful, "inconvenient" shifts to get us there. Are we really interested in what works for our planet, or have we simply dressed our human interest in profit ("got to get those stimulus dollars!")and/or coolness ("sustainability is all the rage, you know") in bright green?

I hate to bash on Longwood Gardens, as I love going there, but I have to share something I saw there to illustrate my point. There was a placard at one of their treehouses pointing us to look at the irregular patterns on some of the wall boards. Apparently, an old tree trunk had been salvaged after falling, and had been used in the construction of this treehouse.

That's great; except that the tree fell in Washington, on the West Coast. Which means that, in the name of sustainability, this heavy object was transported all the way to the East Coast. One tree saved . . . and hundreds of gallons of gasoline consumed! How is this good for the environment?

Answer: it's not. But by saving this tree and reusing it for such a cool purpose, we can't help but think how wonderful that is and how important conservation and reuse is in our effort to save the planet. Apparently, this is what passes for responding to Al Gore's "inconvenient" truth.

Instead, let's note what the oil sheiks in the Gulf states are realizing: we're heading for a post-oil future, and need to invest resources to shift ourselves accordingly. The irony, of course, is that, in the spirit of wanting to be "cool," we're not responding correctly at all to the specter of global warming. And that, to me, is profoundly uncool.
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