Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I'm Not an Addict

One of the words I keep seeing in the media is "addiction", specifically referencing "oil addiction". Bullshit. I live in a country that has an oil dependency, but I wouldn't call it an addiction. There's a lot of blame and shame inherent in that word. Just from the driving-needs-gas perspective personally, I try to live as close to work as possible so I don't have to drive far. (I could bike, I suppose, but I don't.) I also live in a walkable neighborhood. But for the most part, if you live in any American city that was built after 1940 or expanded readily since then (aka, most of them), you simply cannot reasonably function without driving because of the infrastructure.

A large part of the infrastructure problem is suburbs. Suburbs have zoning that segregates residence from commerce making it necessary, generally, to drive from home to store regardless of the load size in an errand. A gallon of milk requires the same drive, and same wait through the register line, as a full load of groceries. In the suburban neighborhood where I grew up, it was a nice three mile round trip walk along a couple busy streets to reach the nearest convenience store. At my current and boston area dwellings, the walk is about three minutes. So in that regard, I try not to be part of the problem. But there is some collective brainwashing that makes modern parents think that cities are no place to raise a child, despite people successfully doing so for millenia. So they move to the 'burbs and must drive everywhere, for every thing.

But more than that, back when the auto industry was starting, they (certain companies) liked to buy up railways and rip out the tracks to remove competition. As a result, there are very few workable public transportation systems in America for either long or short haul distances. Even more than that, due to farm subsidies and price cuts for foreign goods that have less safety regulation, it's cheaper to ship stuff in. And most of this stuff is delivered by truck for both short and long haul trips. Nothing against truckers, but it's nuts to ship 6 trucks worth of goods from place A to place B. Trains are more efficient. But we continually reduce train traffic in favor of trucks. I don't know why, but I suspect special interest lobbies and tax cuts and subsidies favoring trucking.

There's currently a brouhaha over the Long Beach, CA port in that they want to expand, but the amount of truck traffic and pollution that would be added to haul containers from the port to the distribution center would be over the top, even for LA county, with the worst air quality in the country. They're kinda sorta dicking around with the idea of putting in a short haul rail line to handle the traffic. This seems like a no-brainer to me: doesn't clog the roads, speed doesn't rely on commuters getting out of the way (it can take 30 minutes to go 3 miles here), the route is fixed, they can build a green train or upgrade to one later. The only downside is initial outlay of money. With the time and resources saved, a rail line would almost certainly pay for itself many times over, improve efficiency, reduce labor, etc... but I'm not going to hold my breath, even though I should not breathe that air.

But more than just transport, we make stuff out of oil: plastics, colorants, building materials, packaging, fabric. This stuff comes, or can come, from oil. In fact, I'm pretty sure my new fluorescent green underwear come from oil. With the exception of the tiny cotton patch, they even look like pure plastic. It was the novelty of the heat-welded seam sealing of the elastic into the leg openings that sold me. That and they match the first non-racer back bra I've owned that doesn't fall off my shoulders. And let me tell you, I'm not giving up that bra for love nor money. I bought five of them. And if we had to rape the land to make it? I'm not going to apologize. I'd buy them again. And I'm not an addict; I just don't have other viable alternatives.


Anonymous said...

What you're not going "green"...

That's a whole other discussion... we'll save that one when we are sitting on your porch with drinks in hand :)

We'll just leave it at I have no use for a MAN who was the Environmental Minister for the first 10YRS of Kyoto (and did NOTHING) now Leader of the Liberals claiming we can meet Kyoto in a couple of years and it's the CURRENT gov'ts fault who've been in for less than 18mths.

See... needs alcohol and a porch :)


Wade said...

I moved to the 'burbs because it was the only place to find affordable housing near Austin. Houses in Austin proper are insanely expensive, and there are even waiting lists for homes in central Austin, that is, folks are waiting for the current residents to die or sell them.

Heh, what you said about your bra reminds me of one my exes. She was a very well endowed woman, to the point where finding a good bra was hard for her. When she found a bra that was great for her, she bought a dozen of them just in case they ever went out of production (and they did).

Andrea said...

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who realizes the vast majority of products we touch during the day comes from petroleum products. I'm so glad to see I'm not alone :) The other day I walked up and down the grocery aisles and I wanted to point out to everyone all the plastic around them...and even ON THEM!!!

We live in a disposable society and that has just as much impact as my large vehicle (which I need for my very large family of five ;) ) Not that *I* am going green soon either...but I do recycle, and reuse every one of those plastic bags I get from the grocery store.

CrankyOtter said...

Ok, I have a particular anti-suburb bias. And I should say that living in one doesn't make you evil. The fact that we seem to build a ton of them (like mini anthills around the main anthill that transform a whole area into uniform sand) and they are inefficient, requiring driving; not tailored to the local environment (generic like strip malls); and sprawling and that is what I see as the big problems with them. I also see that we don't have a lot of alternatives.

And someone with a family of 5 really has a hard time hauling both kids AND soccer balls AND groceries in a prius. If the government mandated better gas mileage, we'd have better gas mileage, even for the big dog cars - the only other way is for gas prices to get so high that people *can't* afford high mileage cars rather than holding just a vague preference for low(er) mileage cars. There just isn't sufficient choice.

I don't live a dreamy environmentalists lifestyle myself. I buy mostly pre-packaged food because it benefits me directly to do so. I buy local if I can, but if there are fresh cherries in from Chile, I'm not going to hold back. And I don't want to pay unreasonable rates for my fresh food, either. And I'm not going to re-use ziplock bags that have had food in them. It's more wasteful to wash them than to throw them away.

So I think all your posts kind of make my point - we'd do better if we could, but we're kind of stuck with the options we have. And you really can't blame us for living in the environment that we have available to us. We do what we can, but at some point, you just have to buy gas to get to work, pay the bills, and put foreign food on the table.

And FW2? I have alcohol and a porch!

Anonymous said...

Buy fresh, Buy Local and remember "Farmers feed cities". And countries like Chile use banned chemicals like DDT.... and CFIA and USDA don't test enough... although with the new scandals from China - dog food, human food, toys... there is hope for change.

My public service announcement for today.