posts tagged with 'activism'

we need more walking

Lots of towns in Massachusetts didn't have school today because it's been so hard to get the snow cleared off of roads and sidewalks. In Bedford and Lexington, they decided they didn't care about sidewalks and went ahead with school anyways. I was glad because we can use the money, but from a sustainable transportation point of view I was disappointed, and all the more so when I heard teachers criticizing parents who walked with their children to school. "There's no sidewalk! They could've gotten themselves killed!" I refrained from shouting at them that cars aren't dragons, but I did calmly mention that some families might have just one car, or even (gasp) no car, and that "just driving" might not always be an option.

And of course, it shouldn't have to be. Yes, more people drive than walk so it's reasonable to clear the streets first; but at the same time, it's kind of a chicken-and-egg problem. If towns don't clear the sidewalks for two months of the year—or even build them in the first place!—they foreclose the possibility of anyone making an alternative transportation choice.

My coworkers suggested that parents without a car of their own should get a ride with a neighbor, or even keep their kids home from school. Both are great ideas (although I don't know that the administration would approve of the second one). But I have another idea. More people should, in the absence of sidewalks, walk in the street. Wear reflecting clothing if necessary, convoy with friends to make a larger, more visible group; but show up, and show drivers that they aren't the only ones with a claim to the road.

This time of year away almost no drivers are going to stop for a crosswalk outside of town centers: pedestrians just aren't on their mental radar when it's cold. But that doesn't mean I'm going to just wait passively until there's a break in traffic to cross? Of course not! I put myself out in the crosswalk—not jumping in front of cars, but making sure that they see me and see that I'm planning on crossing. Too many still respond only by swerving slightly to get by me without passing to close, but I consider it a positive educational outreach regardless.

Am I being a jerk when I make drivers slow down? Maybe. But any kind of social change will always inconvenience the current privileged group, and that's ok. There are so many reasons to walk rather than driving that we shouldn't let peoples entitled habits—or crappy infrastructure, or poor snow removal—get in the way of making changes right now. When enough people are walking drivers will pay attention; and towns will be sure to plow sidewalks just like they plow streets now, or else let the kids stay home.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don't forget this part:

It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

He'd been to the mountaintop.

sorry, environment

Today from 8:30 to 9:30 was meant to be "Earth Hour", when we all turned out the lights to save a certain amount of energy or something. We didn't participate, even though I cared enough to put in on my calendar when Sierra Club emailed me about it. I figure we save enough electricity the rest of the time, what with the no air-conditioning and things, that we can be grudged a little bit of light in the darkness to help us knit and write web pages.

Which reminds me, there are some things I wonder about Earth Hour. Like, does it only include lights or is all electricity out? Also, what about timezones? Is Earth Hour a rolling thing, or is it supposed to happen at the same time all over the globe? If the latter, the folks who get it at 2:30am or whatever have it pretty easy! Finally, what's the point of the whole thing: to raise awareness, or to really save energy? I hope it's the former, because I didn't notice any participation around the neighborhood (and I'd feel bad too, if I thought I was contributing to the coming energy crisis or climate catastrophe that we're hoping to avoid). And since my awareness is already at about peak level for this particular issue, I won't feel bad for not getting on the bandwagon. Not too bad, anyways...