The Price of Gas Won’t be High Enough


Cartoon Courtesy of Andrew Singer

Cartoon Courtesy of Andrew Singer

On NPR this afternoon a pundit predicted the price of oil would be going up this summer and the price of gas, which is already climbing, will get higher.

If the way people use their cars in the small town where we live is any indication, the price of gas this summer won’t be high enough.

Our entire town is only three square miles. One of the reasons our family moved here is because it’s small enough that you can easily walk and bike anywhere you want to go.

But even on a Sunday afternoon when the weather’s glorious and no one should be in a hurry, everybody’s driving.

The vast majority of the cars my kids and I saw while we were biking today (to the skate park and the Co-op and then home with backpacks laden with groceries) had only one person in them: the driver.

It’s as if our entire culture has forgotten about walking. Or biking. Or skateboarding. Or scootering. Or taking the bus.

You decide to take the kids to the park so you pile them in the car and drive them there, spilling carbon monoxide and other toxins into the “fresh” air that you then want your kids to breathe.

I don’t get it. Americans don’t think twice about commuting in the car for 40 minutes to work but a 40-minute walk to get somewhere “takes too long.”

Most of us believe that having a car is a necessity not a luxury.

James and I disagree on this.

I tell him we should sell our car, which is a compact and too small for the whole family, now that we have a new baby. James thinks we have to have a car because it would be impractical to be carless. But if we’re really going to live according to our values, a car shouldn’t be part of the equation.

Driving a car is the single most polluting action any individual does.

It’s also one of the most dangerous.

One of the best ways to keep our children safe is to keep them out of cars.

In December 2008 NPR reported that road crashes kill 260,000 children a year and injure about ten million more. They are the leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 19, and a leading cause of child disability.

It’s not enough to worry about global warming and complain about how policy makers need to make top-down changes. We need to change our own behavior too.

If raising the price of gas is what it takes to get more Americans out of their cars, bring it on.

What do you think? Is a car really a necessity or is it an upper middle class luxury? Are your car keys getting dusty on the hook by the door or do you drive everywhere? Are you concerned enough about global warming that you’re changing your family’s behavior? Have you found effective ways to get to where you need to go without using a car?

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on Monday, April 19th, 2010 at 1:06 am and is filed under social change.
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