Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

I try and avoid political hot potatoes on what should be strictly a nature blog, but this government program is aimed at mitigating extravagant fuel consumption, and it also points to a part of human nature that is a bit disturbing.

Even ardent supporters of President Obama’s policies and initiatives seem to be raising eyebrows at this popular program designed to replace “gas-guzzlers” with more fuel-efficient vehicles. One criticism is that the bar is set so low (one needs to only improve their miles per gallon by less than a factor of ten) it is really going to have a negligible effect. An improvement of fifteen or twenty miles per gallon in performance would seem to be a better threshold to qualify for federal funding help.

My criticism has much more to do with our American sense of entitlement to a personal vehicle. Why are my tax dollars being used to subsidize your car? I should at least be allowed to borrow it now and then if I have a financial stake in it. Never mind that I don’t drive (I can, I have a license, but I find it so nerve-wracking as not to want to bother), it is the principle of taking from the collective community to give to the individual that I find offensive.

President Obama would have been far wiser to use those funds to greatly expand public transit across the nation, including commuter rail lines. His reluctance to do so points out how pathologically isolated we have become. We can no longer tolerate “others” on the bus ride to the office, let alone any other destination. Even if we do climb aboard a coach, we plug our ears with MP3 players, bury our face in a book, or stare out the window. Whatever happened to striking up a conversation? Flirting? Sharing?

No, we would rather go into financial debt for our very own personal, mobile space than have to deal with “strangers” any more than we already do. I could go on about how some drivers need to be taken off the road no matter what kind of vehicle they are behind the wheel of, or how distracted, sleep-deprived, and angry the average operator of a car has become, but mostly I am simply saddened by our collective disdain for interacting with each other in public.

Tomorrow I take the bus, like every weekday morning, from South Deerfield to the UMass campus in Amherst. I will enjoy joking and conversing with the fine ladies and gentlemen that share that commute. I encourage you to explore your own transit options and make the most of them, both economically and socially.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN! Although in the town where I work taking the bus is a bit like taking your life in your own hands, very scary indeed!I whole-heartedly agree that nation wide we need better and more easily accessed public transit.