Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day -- Where Were YOU?

1970. I was 12 years old, going through hell on earth as a seventh grader at Pattie Hillsman Junior High School. I wasn't politically active, and I vaguely recall the event. They gave me a sticker.

Next year when I joined the band, I put the sticker on my musical instrument case. It's still there.

I've never considered myself an active environmentalist. I mean, I'm responsible and accountable, but not really active. Well, until recently. Now it all seems to be coming together, all at once. The Californians seem to have killed off (or significantly damaged) a major fish run. We're getting air pollution warnings here in Oregon because of air pollution in Shanghai. The price of food is skyrocketing, a double whammy based on bad crops (climate change?) and George "Strangle on a Pretzel" Bush's mistaken notion that biofuels will ever make a significant difference in our nation's dependence on foreign oil.

(As an aside, our imports of oil and automobiles constitutes more than all of our current trade deficit. But that's another story.)

So, today at lunch I got to listen to an interesting talk by Bob Mionske. Bob was addressing a group of listeners with the San Francisco BTC, discussing legal issues. (Bikescape is really hit or miss with me; this particular podcast was really interesting.) I was particularly intrigued with a recent (1998) ruling that claimed that bicyclists on Illinois roads are "permitted" but not "intended" (hence jurisdictions are not liable for making the roads dangerous to those of us with a right to the road).

Hmmm...wow, what a concept. Can we get the Oregon legislature to rule that private passenger automobiles are "permitted" but not "intended"? That would send a really clear message to murderists and public planners that they're going down the wrong path.

Similarly, on Earth Day, I've heard that the U.S. government wants to raise fuel efficiency standards. But...35 mpg by 2020? Excuse me? Suppose that 10% of vehicle traffic is service and commercial and the other 90% is by bicycle. If the bicycles get 900 mpg and the other vehicles get 0 mpg, that means that our fleet average could be 800 mpg. 35 mpg seems pretty pitiful. And how is this measly increment supposed to reduce our carbon footprint?

But, I guess that means people would have to turn off their television sets and take care of their bodies. Today, on Earth Day, I'm feeling dubious this will ever happen.

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