Another way to use the fourth of July is as a day to talk about independence. Since AutoblogGreen has a global audience, that's the way I'll approach this post. In part, this is because I respect a non-nationalistic viewpoint of the ideas this day is meant to celebrate. Also, I think that independence is a pretty personal issue, and when we're talking greener driving, it all starts with the individual.
So, follow me after the jump to think about how we can work on our own independence, sometimes by being more dependent.
First, let's think about what independence means. For a lot of people, it's used interchangeably with the word freedom, but there are distinctions. Freedom is about the power to do and say what one wants. Independence is similar, but contains the issue of connection to others. This can mean being free of another's control (and this is where its similar to freedom) or it can mean not having to depend on others for what you need.
Taken at the most basic level, no person or thing is truly independent. We live in ecosystems and the connections between us and the world around us is unending and complex. We need to eat and breathe, for example, and it takes microbes, plants, farmers, shipping trucks, etc. to provide us with food and oxygen. The takeaway lesson, for me, is that some independence is a good thing and too much will kill you. Therefore, I want to focus on ways to increase our independence and our dependence; in some cases, one action will accomplish both goals.
First, the most obvious thing we'd like to increase our independence from is oil. Whether for environmental or national security reasons, using less petroleum products is a good thing. If we think about carpooling, it's the perfect example of relying less on petroleum (we only need gas for one car instead of two or three) while relying more on friends or coworkers. A few related stories on carpooling include the odd case of Chevron encouraging carpooling through the Rideshare Initiative and the carpool (and mass transit) payback program in Atlanta.
While shopping the other day, I was in a grocery store at one end of the row of shops. I noticed, but didn't think much about, a woman in the shop with me. As I was leaving the parking lot, I noticed that she got into her SUV, drive the 100 yards to the other end of the row, repark and walk into a clothing store. This kind of driving is just absurd. Starting up an ICE to go 300 feet? I know she's able to walk, so there was no physical reason for her to do so, just laziness, it seems to me. This brings me to my second way to declare independence.
How about we become less dependent on our cars? I don't advocate getting rid of our rides altogether, but each one of us could cut out a drive now and then, couldn't we? Longtime readers of this site will remember that I've always been impressed with the way the government of Australia recommended people "Minimise driving" as a way to tread softer on the earth. I'm still in favor of the idea, and think that sitting down for ten minutes at the beginning of the week to think about what shopping trips need to be done, what social engagements are upcoming and how trips to work or school can be combined with them could save a lot of people a lot of gas (and time). They might be your most profitable ten minutes of the week. The UK's Environmental Transport Association is just one of many sites where thoughtful trip planning is encouraged. When we depend on our brains a little bit to plan our time and our driving, our dependence oil is reduced.
A more serious change in lifestyle is to buy a new car. I'm not going to tell you what's the best option for you, because there's no "best" car for everyone. But getting a new clean diesel, hybrid or NEV might be just the ticket to lowering fuel bills and spewing fewer emissions into the atmosphere when we do drive. Just a thought.
Reducing emissions, spending less time in and money on the car, and working with people I know to drive smarter. That's my kind of freedom.
That's my Fourth of July spiel. Writing about all these options makes me want to see what you've got to say. What's your declaration of independence (and dependence)? You can start sounding off by taking this poll, then the comments are all yours.