A friend asked me the other day if I was big into the global warming thing. I said yeah, but then I got to thinking about it. I'm really not. I don't want to be misunderstood, I think global warming is a problem and I am sure that humans (or the "stuff" we produce and use) are the cause. I just don't happen to think it's the biggest problem and it's not the reason that I'm trying to simplify my life. So why did I tell my friend yes, I was into the global warming thing? Because it is a buzzword that people listen to (or choose to ignore). Sometimes, especially during an extraordinarily hot summer, people will hear the phrase "global warming" and it will initiate some change in them. So I associate with global warming and will use it to my advantage at times, but really there is much more that drives me toward simplicity.
I'm really against the over reliance on cars. Sure, cars are a huge contributor to global warming, but they are far worse than that. Cars are closely associated with the 5 leading causes of death in the United States. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive lower respiratory disease and accidents are the five leading causes of death in the US. The exhaust from combustion engines contributes to the top four leading causes of death to some degree. In addition, the automobile contributes greatly to a sedentary lifestyle which also contributes to the four leading causes of death in this country. To be fully honest, a sedentary lifestyle isn't a huge contributor to cancer or lung disease, but I have seen links to both of these in peer reviewed journals. To this point I haven't mentioned the fifth leading cause of death, accidents. The majority of all accidents involve a motor vehicle.
Of course I don't like that the over reliance on cars is killing people. I wish we could all live longer and be healthier. What really gets to me is the things that I don't have a choice in. I do my best to prevent expelling exhaust. I have a reel lawn mower and ride my bike for the vast majority of my transportation. I don't use much gas. What makes me mad is that my taxes subsidize the use of gas. Gasoline and diesel should cost at least $8/gallon so that tax money doesn't have to pay for gas. (I may go into why gas should be so expensive another time, I have other points I want to make now). So first I subsidize your fuel and then, as a result of your use of the fuel I get hammered with more taxes for Medicare and Medicaid and a huge insurance premium. If people weren't so reliant on cars, there wouldn't be as much pollution making people sick and killing them. I have grown up the son of a capitalist pig (my mom... she admits it openly), and it just doesn't seem fair to me to be charged (through my taxes used to subsidize the cost of gas and diesel) for a product that I don't use and then charged again for all of the problems that it causes. What do I get for my money?
I had a lot more to say, but I stopped... you should be grateful. Cars have also contributed to the downfall of social ties. How many people walk into their garage, start their car, drive to the parking garage at work and walk inside without every being outside and without ever corresponding with another human being? Oh, I know they have cell phones for that (further contributing to the fifth leading cause of death), but I will save that soapbox for another time. On my bike ride to school, I pass at least 3-5 cyclists going each way. Most of whom I have talked to and look forward to talking to again. How often do you meet a new friend in a car? Dr. Putnum has written extensively on social capital and cars are destroying it. We just don't get out and talk with people anymore and it's destroying neighborhoods.
If I have to take a stand against global warming to get cars off the road, I'll do it. Not because I think that global warming is the worst problem we face, but because if there are fewer cars on the road, it will help alleviate the other problems that are wreaking havoc on our society. I also don't believe that cars are bad or that they should never be used again. They are sometimes needed, but people rely on them far too much and I think that everyone should be able to make a smooth transition to living without one if it was necessary (that means that most people need to make a drastic change!)