There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guilty pleasures

Today's Sacramento Bee has a commentary by Daniel Weintraub under the telling headline:
Governor: Environmentalism for the manly man.

It seems the governor wants to change the image of the environmental movement. He wants to push aside the scolds and replace them with optimists. Instead of using guilt to push people out of their SUVs and into environmentally friendlier autos and transit, the governor wants to encourage the sort of technological innovation that will allow people to keep their SUVs.

That is what you have to do. You have to make things cool, you have to make things sexy and cutting edge. And so we don’t have to take away the cars from the people, the SUVs, the Hummers, and the muscle cars. No. That formula is a formula for failure. Instead, what we have to do is make those muscle cars and those SUVs and those Hummers more environmentally muscular.
I am reminded of the difference between factory farms and free-range ranching. A vegetarian may approve of moving away from factory farms, but killing is still killing. A transitarian approves wholeheartedly of the efforts to reduce the toxic nature of SUVs. But transit must remain a major component in any realistic plan to cope with the full range of problems created by California's overreliance on the single-occupant vehicle as the principal mode of transportation.

For a transitarian there's nothing to cheer in pimping Arnold's ride:

What we did was, we took a 1965 Impala and we made it into a lowrider, but not an ordinary lowrider. We dropped in an 800 horsepower engine that goes from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds. I mean, really very powerful. But what is unique is that that engine is powered by biofuel. That means it emits 50 percent less greenhouse gases, and it goes twice as far.
Please, who needs an 800 horsepower car on a gridlocked freeway system?

The governor's basic idea is great. And if his acts matched his words I might cheer when he says:

So, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think that any movement has ever made it, or has ever made much progress based on guilt, because guilt is passive, guilt is inhibiting, and guilt is defensive. You remember the commercial a number of years ago of the Native American that has seen what we have done to the environment, and then all of a sudden a tear runs down his cheek. Well, you know something? That approach did not work, it was disastrous. Successful movements are all built on passion, not on guilt. They’re built on passion, they’re built on confidence, and they’re built on critical mass, and often they’re built on an element of alarm that galvanizes action.
But this is the same governor who has proposed cutting state funding for transit in order to focus on highway lanes. That's simply wrong.

You can read the governor's full speech here.

4 comments:

Maya said...

I wholeheartedly agree. As a pseudo-vegetarian, pseudo-transitarian and general healthy people advocate, I think that we should aggressively pursue policies that improve people's quality of life.

Switching out a fuel may improve air quality, but it doesn't mean a damn on a congested LA freeway. It doesn't address the fact that drving makes you fat or that communities are fragmented and isolated as a result of our auto-oriented development.

John said...

I think the governor has a point: Guilt only works so far to motivate people. But vegetable-oil muscle cars are clearly not the answer.

Today's challenge is to find ways to encourage more people to choose to use transit. I would like to see monthly passes offer a steeper discount over the individual fare. This would encourage more people to plan to use transit. Ideally, this would be paired with an increase in the gas tax, but that's not likely to happen.

Maya said...

I am looking for data on the effectiveness of transit subsidies, so if you know of any, please send them my way!

John said...

And vice versa... I'd be interested in hearing what you learn on the topic of transit subsidies.