Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hornets from Hell

Sorry, insect lovers. This post is not about vespids.

We are addicted to fossil fuels in ways that we might not think about. I paid three dollars a gallon for gas for the first time yesterday ($2.999), but when I drive by the local McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts in the morning, I still see cars lined up at the drive-up window, engines idling, up to 12 deep, because folks just won't park and walk a few yards. Next time I drive on the highway, I have little doubt I'll see some guy - all alone - in his big Yukon, Excursion or Escalade going 75 miles per hour in the left-hand lane. I'm with Tom Friedman: gas is not yet expensive enough. I feel bad for those people at the lower end of the economic scale, who are trapped between affordable housing and a long commute to work, but we will never see low gas prices again, and we, as a nation, need to start re-thinking the American dream.

I also wonder about other manifestations of our addiction. Many suburban homes here in the Northeast have long driveways, often leading to two- and three-car garages. Many of us affluent but aging Boomers have better wallets than backs and we rely on snowplowing services to clear our driveways after every significant snowfall. More energetic motorists might go so far as to use a gas-powered snow blower, but the days of paying the neighbor-kid to shovel the drive are over. And, this is just to get the cars on the road. Imagine the fuel that must be used to clear our streets and highways! Not only are vast energy resources used to power our cars, but we are helpless without powerful machines to clear the way for our driving every time it snows.

My work often affords me the chance to work outside here in town. On the rare good day, I can clear away the clutter of life and settle down to work on an outdoor job. My favorite times are when the weather is good, NPR is on the radio, and I can work peacefully on an interesting carpentry project. Very often, however, just as I get things set up and begin to enter 'the zone,' the hornets from hell arrive. They descend from their big green trucks with gasoline engines screeching. The landscape service has come to manicure the property. With a crew of guys with their stand-up riding mowers, weed-whackers and blowers, they make enough noise to drown out thought, let alone hearing. When the leaves fall in the autumn, I get to listen to more blowers plus the roar of giant vacuum-cleaners.

The impact of these approaches to snow and landscape management on water, air, flora, fauna and quietude might be the topic of another post. Here, I wonder about fossil fuel. Not only are we slaves to gasoline-powered machines for transportation, we have built homes that cannot be maintained without them. We all want big homes and big yards, but who wants to spend hours shoveling, mowing and raking any more? How many pause to ponder the wisdom and sustainability of these mini-estates.

Last year, I read Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende. It inspired me to buy a push mower. It's taking a little attitude adjustment to get used to this new/old approach to lawn care, but at least I'm thinking about it.


At 9:57 AM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

That was a great post...sometimes the most brilliant things are the simplest. I only think of drive-thrus when I'm at Starbucks and the kids are asleep in the car,(that's the only time I really use a drive-thru) and I see a huge Explorer with one woman in it in front of me and I want to scream. You brought up some great points. Thanks.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Would you mind if I put a link to your blog on my blog? I think the folks who read mine will enjoy yours, too.

At 4:27 AM, Blogger clairesgarden said...

ah the petrol usage thing brings up great debates, I work with three other girls and I am the only one with a car, so they say I am the least 'green' one and cannot comment on their lifestyles, but I cycle to work(4 miles) two days a week, past one girls house and she gets a taxi to work!(less than a mile!!)


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