April 2012 Letter From the Publisher
Apr 01, 2012 01:08AM
President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 because he believed that building precedent-setting transportation infrastructure would unite our country and catapult postwar America into prosperity. Production of automobiles and the supporting highways and bridges did indeed spearhead an economic boost during the second half of the 20th century, but it also created unprecedented issues.
The ripple effect of that single decision continues in ways the President likely didn’t conceive. To this day, it influences where and how Americans live and has rolled through the global economy with mounting environmental consequences for the planet. The combustion engine revolution unleashed a new set of problems no one was prepared for.
For example, thousands of acres of productive agricultural and woodland have been replaced or polluted by impervious concrete and asphalt that demand continuous maintenance and improvement paid for by tax dollars. The resulting heat-bounce alone alters urban environments and, among other effects, raises demand for energy to run air conditioning. Spreading roadways promote inefficient suburban development in outlying areas instead of better urban planning. Roads also continue to tear through wilderness areas, bringing loggers, miners and fossil fuel interests in to rape new lands. All of it courtesy of more and more roads.
Earth Day on April 22nd offers a time to reflect on the ways we choose to use and perhaps misuse our own cars.
I grew up in an age when a car spelled personal freedom and America was the auto building king of the world. I learned to drive early and soon expanded my horizons by exploring the East Coast, discovering lifestyles I never imagined existed. I learned independence and self reliance in part because I liked to drive. But a lot has changed in 40 years.
I still love my car and consider it my home away from home, a sanctuary from roaring highways noises and dangers, protection in storms, a road to spontaneous adventure. The engineers and designers have made it easy to forget you are driving a ton and a half of metal at high speeds, sailing along between imaginary walls based on thin lines of hardened paint and sometimes tangible walls of looming trucks and barriers. It’s a dangerous business no matter how you cut it—unsafe for people and the planet in many ways.
So in honor of Earth Day this year, I am taking a hard look at my own travel habits, realizing that habits of convenience and comfort are hard to break. Jumping in the car instead of walking or riding a bike or taking mass transit seems an engrained habit, but it comes with a heavy price we cannot afford. A better world and better health can come if we want it to; our pocketbooks will benefit, as well.
Our “Green Home Checklist” offers many simple and easy ways to green up our daily lives. All the small steps add up to a large difference. Joni Mitchell sang, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Together, we can reclaim paradise.
To questioning the status quo,
Don Moore, Publisher