Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Time We Create the Future

Do you remember imagining what the future would be like when you were a kid?  Or, you know, it was more like, The Future!  There were The Jetsons, of course, with their folding-up flying cars, and their robot maid, and the face time phones, and all that stuff.  There's one episode I can't shake, even though I wasn't way into the show as a kid, and haven't seen it in years.  I forget if it was Jane (his wife), or Rosie the robot, but one of the two glanced out the window, and saw they were surrounded by smog.  She pushed a button, and their futuristic-flying-saucer house rose up on its stilt legs till it had reached clearer skies.  "That's better!" she said, and the laugh track commenced.  Even as a kid though, I thought it was unbelievably sad.  This was The Future!, and instead of finding a way to vacuum up the smog, we were just climbing higher to a new level we could pollute?  What happened when they got too high up to breathe?
Well, welcome to the future and, funny thing, we don't have flying-saucer houses on stilts, but we are taking a similar approach to our problems

"Oh no!  We've used up most of the oil that's easy to reach and not in the hands of nations with questionable policies!  No problem!  We'll just drill into fragile ecosystems, like the ocean, or protected arctic lands!  Hell, we'll just use the dirtiest, one of the least efficient and most destructive methods of obtaining oil there is to pump oil out of pristine wolf and caribou habitat in  Cananda, and then build a giant pipe line to bring the filthy stuff all the way down to the gulf of Mexico!  No way those things will cause any problems, or only prolong the inevitable, right guys?  Right?"

Uh, sure, right, Rosie.

I think it's time we re-imagine the future.  Not in five years, not in ten, and not when gas prices hit $6.00 a gallon.  Now.  Because the one we're careening madly toward with big, prosperous smiles on our faces sucks.

There was a time when we thought the oil would last us forever.  We thought every person in the world could have a car!  We had the assembly line, and we had oil coming out of our ears down south.  Everyone was happy.  I am convinced it didn't take the smart people among us who were investigating this scenario long to figure out that this was not the case.  So why, more than fifty years later, are we still acting like it is?  Why are we supporting politicians who are willing to lie to us to stay in office another few years, just because they cut gas prices back from $4 a gallon to $3?  Why are we so happy to keep sucking up the lie when it's becoming more and more obvious that oil is NOT the way of the future?

Deep Horizon, anyone?  Animals are still dying in the gulf.  The tourists may be back, but it's not over for them.  It's still seeping oil, two years later, by the way.  Put that in your car and smoke it.

Can you tell this stuff pisses me off?  Because it really does.  The people who just have to have their SUVs because a smaller hybrid car isn't 'safe', or worse, isn't 'cool' really steal all my yoga tranquility very quickly.

I get it: we all moved out to the suburbs.  We live surrounded by other houses and nice backyards, not stores, workplaces, and public transport.  In those conditions, a car is a necessity.  But necessity or not, that way of life is dying.  There is no choice.  Even hybrids take some gas, and even cars that run on hydrogen or electricity alone are using electricity mostly made from fossil fuels.
Let's all agree to stop pretending that the way of life we've gotten comfortable with is not going to change, big time, very soon, and start planning on it.  Start getting excited about it!

Let's make a new Jetsons.  Let's imagine what a comprehensive bus system would look like.  Let's imagine what zoning laws would look like that would allow walking and biking to be a viable way to accomplish what you need to on an average day without the need for any motor whatsoever.  Let's teach our kids how silly and frivolous is is to have two cars to every family, and jobs, school, and groceries ten to twenty miles away.  Let's remember how to stop by the grocery that's close enough to bike to every day for a few things, instead of loading up our car from the mega mart once every week or two.

Oh, I know, we're not out of oil, yet.  But we need oil for a lot of things.  No one's invented an electric tractor yet, as far as I know.  Or did you forget about the most basic level of obtaining food?  Maybe our farmers can go back to plowing by horse.  I'll bet they remember how.  And reducing our farms to a size that makes that practical would go a long way toward solving our food problems, major oil-suckers if ever there were some.  What about the iv bags in hospitals, to say nothing of your milk jug?  Those are made of petroleum products.

I've had way too many people tell me and anyone else who tries to point out this simple truth to 'get real.'  We can't expect people to give up their cars!  We can't expect people to change!

Well, guess what, guys.  The oil will run dry, and we're not the ones who are going to have to 'get real' then.  I suggest you get on that shit now, while the transition can still be a somewhat slow one, instead of a massive crisis.

By that time we may be living in the Jetsons future.  The one where the smog is inescapable, our children put tigers, whales, and dragons in the same category, and we're all sitting around with asthma and cancer wondering why our cars were so important in the first place.  I'm not interested, thanks.

Arists, engineers, scientists, dreamers...the politicians won't help us, and most of our parents won't, either.  We'd better get on this ourselves.  So tell me, what will our future look like?  It's officially time to start building it.

Live Omily,

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