Oooooh it makes my blood boil. I’d like to email Stan Meager a piece of my mind.
I hope that every automaker takes a cue from Ford, and they all start upping their donations to environmental causes. Eventually folks like Stan Meager will be seen “thumbing it” down the rural highways and begging for generic brand spark plugs!
I just read your account of the anti-SUV event outside Boston. Bravo! As an environmentally conscious Prius driver, nothing would be better than to see those monsters off the streets.
I just finished reading your article on SUVs, and I am very disappointed that this has been made a religious issue. There are more important issues — i.e., world hunger, poverty, human rights, etc. — that need to be supported by our religious communities.
Rallies are fine, but I must say, as a green-tinted would-be curber of the car, I found the article as shortsighted as the anti-SUV event it described.
Taking the lord’s name in vain, as they say, is standard fare and not offensive to my secular spirit. But all those ministerial folks should recall that Jesus rode a donkey and if he — oops, He — were hereabouts and running an environmental crusade he most assuredly (l) would not stage it on a parking lot so far out of this transit-oriented city (Boston) that you had to own or use a car to get there; (2) would preach to the assembled environmentalists about driving their own “small” cars that cumulatively run up massive oil bills, spit carbon dioxide, kill more than a hundred people a day, split habitat, and create sprawl via the road … shall I go on?
An organizer to whom I expressed my distrust in this off-the-track gathering a few weeks ago, wrote me that I should “have faith and remember the French Revolution. First SUVs, then mini-vans, then station wagons, full, medium, compact, sub-compact [cars], motorcycles, motor scooters, lawnmowers, and then finally we can get back to tumbrels.”
From an organizer’s perspective, he went on, “we start with where the people are who are willing to protest. There is energy now against the suburban tanks.” All I can say to that, is that capitalizing on this complacency is worse than a waste of energy. Why not direct it to alternate transportation? To good land planning? To centering around walkable cities? To driving less or not at all? Instead of this grayest shade of green.
As for Jesus and the Witness to Earth religious sorts: Unless they’re happy that we’ll all find the divine in the hereafter (and never mind the now), they could at least contemplate their own contribution to automated hell on earth. That includes the 30 percent of CO2 emissions causing global warming, the destruction of habitat, exacerbating of sprawl, et al. that comes from their own vehicles — their own “respectably sized” vehicles — as well.
Jane Holtz Kay
Bill McKibben replies:
Thanks to Jane Holtz Kay for her bracing message, useful fodder for all of us trying to figure out where to put our energies in the current crisis. Who knows for certain where to start? Not me — at the moment it seems important to try many different tacks and figure out what catches the imagination. One factual note: Our protest actually began with a rally inside the commuter rail station in Lynn, Mass. The wonderful Debra Hall of Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, who did much of the planning, made sure that we were commuter-friendly, and indeed we timed everything to coincide with the train schedules.
As to the religious element of our demonstration, the people of faith who took part did so precisely because they are committed to defending creation in the here-and-now. Several of them had been arrested the week before in Washington outside the U.S. Department of Energy; for others, it was their first stab at this type of work. Given their courage and good cheer, and given the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans profess some kind of religious faith, I vote for welcoming them with the widest possible arms.
Re: Daily Grist
Thanks for giving coverage to stories that are often tucked into the back of the newspaper. I’ve found out so many disheartening things through Daily Grist, admittedly a weird thing to thank someone for. But hell, if we’re gonna get screwed, I want to know who’s on the giving end.
Your writing is solid and the take action links at the bottom of each summary are especially useful and empowering. You folks are damn funny, something this world could use more of.
Re: Daily Grist
I get several daily enviro emails, and all the bad news in the others had me really upset. It seems so simple just to give up in the face of such gloom and doom. Thanks for highlighting a few hopeful news items, without the tone of forced cheerfulness one finds in the “thanks for your donation .. here’s what we have accomplished” letters I get from some national environmental groups.
Re: That ’70s Show
Why do we have to constantly listen to the false rhetoric that the Bush administration puts out on the airwaves? There is no energy crisis, but there are a number of politicians in power who want to pay back fossil fuel industries for their lucrative campaign contributions.
When will either of the two major political parties start touting the benefits of mass transit, energy efficiency, and conservation? Our economy would improve because our oil trade deficit would go down. Our way of life would improve, as we could sit back and read a newspaper instead of wasting time and resources in a stand-still automobile in rush-hour traffic. Local air pollution would decrease, and the global warming threat could be curtailed. Obesity in our country, a chronic problem, would likely decrease, as people would walk or bike between transit stops and sources or destinations.
In addition, our research and development would start focusing on future viable technology improvements, such as wind energy, solar power, and high speed light rail, instead of the dying polluting dinosaur technology of today. The U.S. can be a leader in these technologies, or we can sit back and watch somebody else blaze the trail.
Demonstrations need to be organized throughout the U.S. against the proposals being put forth by this administration.
Fort Collins, Colo.
Re: That ’70s Show
It is appalling that Vice President Dick Cheney c
an arrogantly claim that Americans are entitled to waste. Most modern, conscious, thinking people already know that taking active steps to conserve does not necessitate a dramatic reduction in lifestyle. Why can’t the Republican policy-makers admit that we can have our cake and eat it, too, without the need for such dramatic measures as building thousands of new power plants?
Why not put some of the billions into research, development, and construction of hydrogen power production technology? At the same time, why not allocate a portion of the new “tax break” for conservation incentives?
It’s great to be as involved as Adam is, but how did he get to the office and to all of those meetings? My guess is that he drove alone in his car. I think environmentalists have to find ways to get out of their cars, less to lead by example and more to understand how dependent we are on the car and how difficult it is to support alternatives. Here in Vermont, 98 percent of all transportation trips are taken in cars and more than two-thirds of Vermonters cannot conceive of policies that would make them drive less.
Adam Markham responds:
You are absolutely right that I drive my car to work most days, but only half alone, as I take my daughter to day care. Transportation options are a real problem and I think one of the most difficult to solve. We haven’t started any transport projects yet at Clean Air-Cool Planet because we’re still trying to work out how we could be effective in reducing passenger miles traveled. I really like Maine’s fledgling approach to car-free tourism and the new “yellow bike” pooling scheme at the University of New Hampshire. Coming from England eight years ago, I was pretty shocked by the low price of gas and the lack of public transport options. One reason my family moved up to New England was so we could live closer to work than we did when we were in D.C. and reduce our driving (which we have by about 60 percent). CA-CP’s office is in the middle of a thriving community so that we can walk to most of our local meetings. Staff travel to Boston by bus virtually all the time, and the last trips I made to New Haven, New York, and D.C. were all by train. But as you said, the options are few and far between.
Loved your article, but “like a bunch of whiny little girls?” The gist is certainly justified and well-taken, but — hey! aren’t we supposed to be the ones trying to get more correctness into the world, starting with getting rid of labels that diss half the population? I expected better of you, m’dear! Slap slap! Now get back on the bandwagon and git writin’!
Editor’s note: The article, as satire, was intended to be outrageous and perhaps representative of the White House’s way of thinking. Of course we don’t think little baby girls are more whiny than little baby boys, and we regret that our word choice provoked a good deal of outrage. We changed the wording to “little babies.”
Re: Spin the Bottle
Thank you for the wonderful article about Perrier’s plans to bottle spring water in Wisconsin and the opposition that wants the company out of the state. It was superbly done!
Bill and Mary Jane Schmudlach
I object to your use of environmentalists when referring to vandals. It seems that environmentalist can mean anything from someone who occasionally recycles a can, to someone who is active in lobbying a senator, to someone who mindlessly destroys public property. Let’s call the arsonists what they are — vandals — and not further smear our own names, especially with the current anti-environmental climate in Washington, D.C.
Re: Dudeless Ranch
I appreciate Grist’s light-hearted and cynical approach to environmental woes. Unfortunately, the environmental community spends enough time battling the Marlboro Man myth without it being propagated by conservation-minded journalists.
The women are obviously courageous in their attempt to make a living in the fiscally challenged business of ranching. The fact remains, though, that the business of running cattle in desert ecosystems is not sustainable. It is particularly unsustainable in the majority of lands in the Southwest, which receive a scant six to 10 inches of annual precipitation. Taxpayers are footing the bill and simultaneously losing valuable wildlife habitat.
Kansas Bend, Ore.
I love bears! But you were incorrect today to say that grizzlies are omnivores. Grizzly bears are scientifically classified as members of the order Carnivora. The fact that their diet consists of only 10 to 15 percent meat has little to do with the way they are classified. They are classified on their skull and teeth characteristics. Bears belong to the family Ursidae, and their diet is omnivorous. For more information on grizzly bears, please consult this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service article.
Kempthorne wasn’t necessarily wrong.