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Transportation Day – No Impact Week

No Impact Week, Day 3:

I’m afraid our day of transportation change didn’t start out so well. The transition from winter vacation to early school days isn’t easy. When 6 am rolled around, A slept through her alarm. Try as I might, I couldn’t get her to wake up, so we missed her 7:31 am bus to school. By the time she was fully conscious, dressed, fed, and willing to give school a try, it was after 8:30, and past time to get to class.

We did have some choices about how to get the 1.1 mile from our house up a hill to school. We could have walked, which doesn’t sound bad at all – The distance isn’t far, and it was a glorious sunny morning. So, what held us back? A couple of things: The roads were icy enough that cars were swerving on the hills, and I would have had to carry my nearly 5-yr old up this particular hill (see minute 1:47) alongside a road with a very narrow shoulder, in order to get my 8-yr old to school. Safety trumped green living this morning – Although the world would have a lighter human load if we had perished on our walk, I choose not to be so cynical or objective; I’m looking to lessen our impact, not to zero it out through our demise.  If we weren’t here at all as a species, we would have no impact, and our earth would be inestimably more in balance (assuming no other species with adaptations like ours). But we’re here, and I think we each deserve what are almost universally recognized as basic human rights in order to lead happy, healthy, rewarding lives. Does that include the right to live in our hometowns? Do we all need to change our land use to move together into cities so we can meet our needs on a daily basis without using so much oil, emitting so many greenhouse gases? It’s fun to imagine the possibilities, but I think we’re going to need a lot of reverse-engineering to make it possible for most of us to bloom into a sustainable culture/lifestyle where we are planted, since that’s where a lot of us want to be.

I love where I live, and I want to stay here, but that means living on an island without any efficient, affordable, user-friendly mass transit. Since I am a single parent with 2 children who can’t yet ride their own bikes on our narrow roads, biking is out for most of our day-to-day transportation needs. We do use the school bus system, but as witnessed by our experience today, sometimes we miss the bus. We need solutions that work for people where they are living now, with the lifestyles we  have. My two kids each attend separate weekly appointments with specialists to address their atypical developmental needs, we make unscheduled trips to  urgent care for various childhood illnesses and injuries, we like to get out and engage with our community in person. Since I’m the only adult around most days, we do all of these things together; no speeding off on a solo bike run to the store for me. We need transportation options that work with this sort of predictably unpredictable schedule, options that everyone can access, regardless of income, options that work for families who travel en masse.

Our neighbor called me yesterday with an intriguing thought: His family is looking at buying a second car, and he’s thinking about whether they could make it available as a sort of private Zipcar. I love this idea! If each neighborhood/development had a car share program, maybe we could keep our independent schedules while we lower our impact. It would be easier to form impromptu carpools to town for groceries or trips to the swimming pool, which would cut overall driving hours/pollution. It’s not even close to the perfect solution, but it would take us one step in the right direction while we work on more fundamental solutions. This whole problem is a many-headed dragon, and I think we need to create our own green Hydra to make real progress.

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