Call Yourself "Green"? Then Stop Driving!

In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe, Geography professor Jason Henderson calls out "green" liberals who insist on driving.

Henderson points out that talk of so-called "green cars" is merely a distraction: The disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico is just the latest warning that our automobile system must be wound down and replaced. He is particularly critical of progressives who call themselves environmentalists yet continue to drive:

"Any progressive-leftist-liberal - "green" -environmentalist cannot, with a clear conscience, drive his or her children to school and expect those children to find a planet they'll thrive on. He or she cannot smugly shrug that the transit system does not go where he or she wants to go, or that the distances are too far to ride a bicycle. Any able-bodied progressive who regularly exclaims 'But I need to drive!' is in need of some deep reflection on his or her values and especially the idea of a green car.

Those progressives who are still unwilling to give up driving should at least give up complaining and obstructing change. You need to accept that in American cities we need to make it more difficult to drive everywhere, for everything, all of the time. It needs to be far less convenient for the affluent to drive down from their exclusive enclaves to have a meal and see an opera. We need change like ending "free parking" in cities. We charge the poor to ride transit, but progressives expect free parking. The sense of entitlement to speed across the city needs to be restricted. Most importantly, progressive motorists need to slow down so those of us willing to make the change can do so safely."

Full Story: Want to Prevent Oil Spill Disasters? Stop Driving

Comments

Comments

Exactly!

People complain that transit doesn't work well enough for them to give up their cars... which is ridiculous. I, and most people I know, function perfectly well without a car. Find an apartment on the same transit line as your job and stop kvetching about parking.

Exactly!

People complain that transit doesn't work well enough for them to give up their cars... which is ridiculous. I, and most people I know, function perfectly well without a car. Find an apartment on the same transit line as your job and stop kvetching about parking.

Exactly Wrong

Most jobs in this country are not located along transit lines, or at least not transit lines that are effectively served. It's a ridiculous thing to ask people to limit their employment options to the few areas served by transit when we have what's essentially double-digit unemployment in this country.

Poor Reasoning

This a really poorly thought out argument. The author is clearly out of touch or simply just an angry academic with an axe to grind.

The author makes driving sound like some sort of moral failing or weakness of will on the part of environmentalists who use cars. People's behavior is dictated in large part by their environment, not exclusively their values or beliefs. People in places like Manhattan and San Francisco take transit because it is convenient and serves their transportation needs effectively, not because they are morally superior to folks in other parts of the country who drive.

In many other parts of the country giving up a car makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to fully participate in society. If we want people to drive less we need to create a built environment that allows people to live car free without being punished for it in terms of job opportunities, social events, etc.

As a bicycle and pedestrian advocate and transportation planner, I've worked for years trying to give people more options so that they can drive less. I've found that a lot of people would love to drive less and walk and bike more but don't because the built environment makes it a very unpleasant experience. I would suggest that the author step down out of his ivory tower and help us make our country less auto-dependent. Advocacy and good planning and design can make this happen, while angry rants at environmentalists who drive might get you some press, but that's about it.

Both Environment And Beliefs

"People's behavior is dictated in large part by their environment, not exclusively their values or beliefs."

In many cases, people have no choice but to drive. In many cases, people have choices but drive anyway.

In Berkeley, where I live, there are many, many people who call themselves progressives and who drive one mile to get to city meetings where they demand more parking.

These are trips where it would be just as easy to bicycle, and their behavior is dictated by their values and beliefs, not by their environment.

I am not exaggerating. I have been dealing with lots of people like this during he last week or so.

Charles Siegel

It's complicated

It's an interesting dilemma - should planners take the moral high ground and practice what we preach so that we're not hypocrites, or is it better to have a planner who deals with the same everyday choices that the general population deals with, and can relate to their decision-making process?

It seems like the former would simply spend all their breath telling others to change their ways, whereas the latter would acknowledge that approach doesn't work and seek to implement the policy changes that would actually incentivize a change in behavoir...since that is what people respond to.

Complicated? Nay, it is. I know not seems.

It seems like the former would simply spend all their breath telling others to change their ways,

No.

It doesn't seem that way at all. Careful with that match, now.

Best,

D

Henderson a Post Child for Why Public Dislikes Planners

Sorry, but Professor Henderson's attitude illustrates why the public just plain doesn't like planners (even though he's a geography professor and clearly not much of a planner, if he's one at all).

The elitism and arrogance of his suggestion that to be green, planners should give up driving, is beyond belief (as are the posts here that suggest you should just live near a transit station, of which there are only a finite number). What chutzpah to refer to those who favor conservation as a "progressive-leftist-liberal - "green" -environmentalist."

He actually wants to make it harder to drive a car anywhere. That's the same attitude some City of Chicago planners had 20 years ago when they bragged they were going to make it so expensive to drive downtown that nobody would want to drive downtown. And indeed with Mayor Daley's new privatized on-street parking they have made it prohibitively expensive to park on the streets downtown (not mention the incredibly high cost of parking lots --you'd think you're in Manhattan) -- except for the wealthy who continue to drive downtown. The price of parking in downtown Chicago is often greater than the cost of tickets to the event you wish to attend. The result is that you just don't go downtown much any more.

Professor Henderson is so way off target and divorced from reality that you've got to wonder why he is allowed to teach. There is no practical way for mass transit to completely replace private transportation. I do wonder how he gets around? I just love how, in the actual article, he has the nerve to write: "Grocery shopping does not require a car. One can simply walk, bike or take transit, and either come up with creative ways to carry the load, or have a jitney service take care of the delivery." Obviously he's never had to shop for a family. Use a jitney service? Come up with "creative ways to carry the load?" Give me a break. He doesn't even know what these "creative ways" are -- otherwise he would have named them.

Yes, I am ticked off at this academic engaging in this sort of sophistry. People are not going to make the changes he seeks. Instead the use of electric cars, hybrids, and other high mileage small cars offer a great alternative to today's gas guzzlers.

Before anybody says, does the writer of this post practice what he preaches:

My wife and I drive a 2001 Honda Insight hybrid that gets 70 mpg on the highway and 45.5 mpg for the life of the car. We've put only 50,000 miles on it in nearly 9 years. Our "big" car is a 2007 Honda Fit Sport which gets 40 mpg highway and 30.3 mpg for the life of the car. It's got fewer than 24,000 miles on it in 4 years. We almost always use the El to go downtown Chicago since it's convenient and less costly (actually we used it when if it wasn't so much less expensive than driving). But if we've got something downtown that lets you out late a night, we've got to drive. The CTA line just isn't that safe late at night.

So please excuse the lengthy post. I am just sick and tired of academics writing the sort of elitist drivel that Professor Henderson wrote as he tries to bait progressives. As The Kinks once sang, "there is no purity" any more. You can be progressive and green without going to the absurd, impractical extremes Henderson posits.

Daniel Lauber, AICP
Planner/Attorney
AICP President 2003-2005, 1992-1994
APA President 1985-1986
http://www.planningcommunications.com

Ink and Eyeballs sought.

I am just sick and tired of academics writing the sort of elitist drivel that Professor Henderson wrote as he tries to bait progressives. ...You can be progressive and green without going to the absurd, impractical extremes Henderson posits.

Sure, but in this media environment, who will pay attention and how will you get ink and eyeballs?

Best,

D

Many more ethical choices

Professor Henderson suggests honest planners (and others) should stop driving to avoid future Gulf Coast-type disasters.
But why focus exclusively on driving? There are many more ethical choices to save the planet. Here is a short list for the professor to consider:
• Install PVs and water heating collectors on your roof
• Convert your roof into a green roof
• Install a wind turbine in your yard
• Cancel the next conference participation in California or Florida
• Cancel the next trip abroad whether for business or pleasure (= a year’s driving)
• Do not visit National Parks or nature preserves that are not served by transit
• Do not visit Disney World with family; a massive travel, consumption magnet; same with Las Vegas.
• Grow your own wheat, tomatoes and spices (you need just 2 acres)
• Do not eat lobster or oysters flown in from the coasts
• Do not eat fruit imported from Africa, New Zealand, and South America; only local
• Do not drink any other but local wine and other liquor
• Do not buy Nike shoes made in China. Order them handmade from the local cobbler
• Exclude selectively oil, nuclear and coal firms from your investment portfolio; disasters in waiting
• Petition Congress to stop using trucks and planes for war; soldiers would do
• Fill in your swimming pool with soil and turn it into a veg-patch
• Do not call for a Pizza delivery; make your own
• Do not visit the New Urbanist development out in the boonies except by transit

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