Monday, June 30, 2008

Elephant in the Drop-Off Zone

June 30th – first day of Summer School

This morning, as I walked towards Prairie View Elementary School to escort a child to my wife’s in-home day-care on West Lincoln Street, I witnessed two motorists nearly run down children who were trying to cross the street. I am sick with fear. And I am filled with anger at my community. Because the problem isn’t just these two distracted motorists. It’s how so many of us have chosen to live.

No doubt the summer school curricula will include many lessons on conserving resources and preserving ecosystems and coexisting peacefully on Earth. But what will our children learn about fighting global warming when they are strapped all by themselves into the back seat of a fossil-fueled motor vehicle? What will they learn about overcoming America’s addiction to oil with Mom’s foot on the accelerator pedal? And what will they learn about coexisting with 6.5 billion other human beings when their parents can’t even manage to live in peace with children who walk and ride their bicycles to summer school?

It’s not just that so many of us still deny the connection between our own hand on the gas pump and the blood and treasure that America is forfeiting to occupy the Mideast – we can always blame President Bush instead of ourselves and our neighbors.

It’s not just that we remain blind to the carbon dioxide that pours from our tail pipes – coal-fired electricity is a bigger problem and we can always hang the crime of thermal genocide on evil utility executives.

It’s not just that we are passing more bucks than ever to OPEC and oil lobbyists in Washington – Fed Chair Bernanke is the fall guy de jour for inflating the dollar into worthlessness and driving our nation into bankruptcy.

But there is absolutely no excuse for us to pass the buck when our own schoolchildren are being endangered by…US! Citizens of Oregon*, how can we not see the elephant in the room? Because when we get into our vehicles and drive to congested places like an elementary school entrance, that’s exactly what we become – elephants! Even if we drive a Prius or Vibe instead of an Expedition or Avalanche, our automotive exoskeleton is a veritable pachyderm compared to a child who is trying to cross the street.

It’s time to face some inconvenient truths. The way to stop global warming is to stop driving our children everywhere – including summer school. The way to stop wars for oil is to stop buying so damn much of the stuff – even if that means actually LIVING where we live rather than driving somewhere else all the time. And the key to coexistence lies in choosing to be small and slow and gentle rather than big and fast and powerful.

P.S. If this feels like an attack on you, dear reader, consider how our precious children feel when we fail to see them beyond the anonymity of our tinted glass and beneath our supersized hoods.

* Oregon, Wisconsin, that is

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know exactly where you're talking about. I grew up in Oregon and went to Netherwood Knoll Elementary.

As a largely commuter community, what sort of things do you think are important for Oregon to do?

The old unused rail line to Madison could be used for commuter transit, or Metro could service the community like it now does for Verona. However, I talked to a few people and I don't think they would use public transit unless gas prices really skyrocketed.