Most of the talk going on about cutting carbon emissions is too abstract. It’s the way the whole environmental community phrases things: sustainability, resilience. What do those mean? Different things to different people. That’s why I talk about street-level changes: gallons of gasoline, pounds of CO2. If we don’t do it at that level, the rest of the dialogue is a coffee-table table exercise. If we can’t get new behavior understanding like a big light bulb going off and an acceptance of behavior change making a difference right now at street level, then what is all the abstract talk going to be good for? The decision is in your car keys. Hold them in your hand and get real about what they mean and your contribution to the problem and your willingness to take hold of this very real addiction and just say “no.”
We have a MOMENT! A mere MOMENT! to get ahold of this. The Chinese are already going back to work. We have to decide not to “go back” to work. That is the opposite direction from the future we need to create. We need to go forward to a new world. A new way of being in the world. We need to invent our way out of this without destroying the infrastructure we have. We need electronic villages, lots of things within walking distance. We need electric street cars and trains to take the cars off the roads. If Detroit can create ventilators in two weeks they can create engines that don’t burn gasoline. It’s not the car body, though it is an obsolete idea, nor is it the road, but the fuel in the car. A hybrid that drastically reduces the CO2 output is OK for a couple of years, but, honestly, who wants to sit in traffic again? That whole scenario is obsolete, a very 20th-century idea. It’s over.
The corona virus created a pause, a costly pause but just at the brink of going over the edge into a future, or fuelture™ as I like to call it, because our lives are all about fuel all the time, that we don’t want, we can say “stop.” We need to invest in a future that we and our children can live in. Giving up gasoline is the starting point. Dare I say “the ignition switch” to the 21st century? (We haven’t been there yet because as long as we burn fossil fuel we’re still in the 20th century.)
Here are some statistics: In 2016 there were 268.8 million cars on American roads. Gasoline accounted for 60% of total transportation fuel (eia.gov.). How many new cars sold in a day? 42,740/day, 6.3 million cars sold in a year. Each driver burns between 12-16 gallons in a tank, burns 500-600 gallons a year, average $1500 per year. Wouldn’t you want to get back both the gas money and the time you spend getting somewhere? Average 20 lbs of CO2 per gallon or 300 pounds of CO2 a tank and as much as a couple of tons of ash going into the atmosphere each year. These round numbers tell us nothing more nor less than the assault on the atmosphere by gasoline, a great designer fluid, a drug to which we are firmly addicted around which we create our way of life. We know about addictions, and this is the most deadly of all because our entire way of life feeds into it. The car companies know it; the oil companies know it. Now they want “a little more time?” We’re out of time! It’s not our job to take care of them. It’s our job to take care of ourselves.
What shall we do to distance ourselves from this dependency? I don’t think a slow course will do. We have already created both proof and ability to function by working from home that we can hold the community together without guns and tanks. Now our combined task is to invent within the current infrastructure a way to go FORWARD to a new future. Only when we reject gasoline as the fiction writer of our lives that we can have both the fluid and the good life it creates without the deadly price we pay for it will we recognize it for what it is: deadly to the planet.
Honestly, this is a MOMENT in the evolution of the breakdown of the planet as we know it. What is that saying? “It takes longer than you think it will and happens faster than you thought it would.” We’re here. What are we going to do?