Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mass Transit for One

This morning I sat down to write a perky little post about how much I loved to ride my bike when I lived in Philadelphia and how I dream of moving back, renovating our kitchen, and buying one of these bikes, about which I learned from a little catalogue that arrived in yesterday's mail. Then I read Elizabeth Kolbert's Comment in this week's New Yorker. It's about the oil spill now filling up the Gulf of Mexico and any given line of it would make you (or me) want to lay down your (or my) head and weep. How about these?

While the point of “peak oil” may or may not have been reached, what Michael Klare, a professor at Hampshire College, has dubbed the Age of Tough Oil has clearly begun. This year, the United States’ largest single source of imported oil is expected to be the Canadian tar sands. Oil from the tar sands comes in what is essentially a solid form: it has to be either strip-mined, a process that leaves behind a devastated landscape, or melted out of the earth using vast quantities of natural gas.

Meanwhile, as everyone knows, no matter where oil comes from or how it has been extracted, burning it is destructive: oil combustion accounts for nearly a third of the greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States.

And none of that is even about the Gulf of Oil, ne Mexico. The whole thing made me so angry at the guy from Design Within Reach who sent me a catalogue to sell me a new bike that I don't need. The catalogue has to be printed and mailed and carried by truck to my house. Then the bike has to be made and shipped from God Knows Where to my house, no matter where I'm living.

Meanwhile, I have a perfectly good bike that works perfectly well that I'd have to get rid of in order to make room for my thousand dollar new bike that I don't need but would look super nifty with me riding around on it not consuming fossil fuels, except for the ones it took to get me the bike in the first place. Which is to say, I'm not getting the bike. The renovated kitchen in the house I don't live in? I'll get back to you about that one.

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