~Yes, it's a thing ... and we do it!~
WALK, BIKE, TAXI, BUS...let me tell you about it 😉
So today I thought I'd delve into our lives as a 'car-free' family and answer the classic five W questions, starting with the WHY?
First, let me dispel the notion that many people assume when they hear we don't have a car. It was NOT because we couldn't afford one. We had a van which I affectionately named 'Madame Blueberry' and I loved her. Until we made this big decision, I had always owned a vehicle. Growing up in the country meant that buying my first car came hot on the heels of getting my driver's license.
But in my growing awareness of the horrendous cost of oil and gas production on the environment, on real people and in its role in war, and I just looked and saw oil saturating everything around us. I wanted to escape it. How could I continue to rail against oil and gas companies when I was so dependent on them myself?
It is so hard to extricate ourselves from our systems of production. I'm trying, but every item we buy in the grocery, hardware, clothing, dollar stores -- it all has an imprint of oil and gas on it. Every bit of plastic is a result of it. It just sucks that we are literally swimming in it daily.
So, what was one thing that we as a family could do? Well, we could stop filling our thirsty tank with gas every week.
I read everything I could find on the internet from families who had gone car-free. I scoured YouTube for videos of biking with kids, biking in the winter, biking in the sun, you name it, I was looking for it. I was obsessed. And I had no idea if we could do it.
But here we were, in a city that DID have a transit system. We lived within walking distance of a mall that had a grocery store, bank, drug store and library among other things. Sure, the grocery store was more expensive than the one I usually drove to, but maybe I could splurge on a taxi home when I wanted to stock up on staples at the cheaper place? There was a walk-in clinic a block away...
What else, what else...
There was so much to consider, but finally our van developed a cough and it was going to need some work done in the near future. It seemed like a sign.
So, we thought of a compromise for our own peace of mind. We could keep the van and get a year's worth of storage insurance. If we couldn't do it, if it was too hard, we could just re-insure it and, tail between our legs, go back to our car dependent life.
It was settled then. We were taking the plunge with a safety net in place. When I went to change the insurance on the van, I had a great chat with the insurance lady. Far from looking down her nose at the idea, she was enthusiastic about our coming adventure and was interested in how it worked out for us. She said that she was trying to walk more and wished she could do the same.
Oh, and there was another little challenge -- I was pregnant when we parked the van that December 31st, 2014. I was staying true to my motto: "What's the hardest possible way to do this? LET'S DO IT!"
Yes, so I feel I can say with some degree of certainty, that if we could do it, then many others could too. At least those who live in cities where there is a decent transit system. It does take some shifting of priorities, some patience as you learn to wait for buses and take the extra time to walk or bike to places, but these are the deep changes that we need to make when we see the environmental crises for what they truly are.
We have been going like this for nearly four years and we are completely used to it now. It hasn't been without it's inconveniences, and there has been grumbling on many occasions, but on the other hand, we haven't had to deal with car breakdowns, accidents or close calls, unexpected costs and the headache of driving kids everywhere all the time simply because there's a vehicle in the driveway. My teens have learned how to take the bus and when there's a crisis of any sort, there are taxis ready for hire. But I will get more into the 'How' of it in another post.
I hope you stay with me as I add to this series. I also hope that it will encourage you to consider making similar changes if you are able!
Until next time,
The rogue or thief is one of the standard playable character classes in most editions of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. A rogue is a versatile character, capable of sneaky combat and nimble tricks.
So there are times when the current state of the world in politics, corporate hegemony and the biggest existential threat our world has ever known -- climate change -- get me so angry and freaked out that I just want to run into the streets and scream at everyone. Which would be super weird because everything around me just rolls along as usual. I suppose if I turned off the news, stopped reading books and articles, I could just nestle in and pretend these issues have gone away.
But of course, they haven't.
And so, as I frantically try to figure out what I have to offer to this fight, it occurs to me again that there is a very subversive way to live our lives that can truly 'stick it to the [corporate] man'.
Now, for most of my life, I've had this frustration while watching movies: A car/truck/train is barreling down a road/track chasing someone who is running for their life. They are running flat out in front of this terror. And all I can think is --
"For the love of God, jump off the road!"
That one person is not going to be able to either: a. Outrun that vehicle or b. Turn around and stop it.
So here is my challenge to everyone who sees what is happening:
Get off the road!
Now I realize that what I'm about to say is really nothing all that new [with the exception of eating animals -- environmentalists seem slow to pick up on that one], but here is where I would suggest it is still important enough to put into bullet form: the changes we need to make are not little pretty changes that make us feel good. These changes must be profound and deep. But before that scares anyone away, consider this: we get to forge a new and better way of living that is less dependent on stuff and potentially much more satisfying. So here are my bullet points:
If everyone that could stopped driving and took public transit, demand for oil would drop. And demand for better public transit would lead to better public transit!
If everyone stopped eating animals and their by-products, demand for the cruel and environmentally devastating animal 'agriculture' would drop.
If everyone stopped using plastic, demand for plastic would drop.
If everyone stopped buying so much cheap, useless and essentially disposable crap, demand for that crap would drop.
No government or overseeing trade organization can force you to drive, eat animals, or buy something you don't want to buy.
Instead, how about we:
Ride a bike, walk, take public transit. And yes, support a taxi driver when the other methods won't work.
Grow a garden, buy local produce, eat plant-based [it's cheaper and healthier too!]
Find more beautiful ways to store our lunches, cover our left-overs, sip on our drinks, furnish our homes and kitchens. Forego single use plastics -- they're blah anyways.
Spend less on cheap, disposable stuff, and more on quality goods and actual experiences. Buy local, buy carefully, buy only what you deem beautiful and/or useful in your life. Minimalism is a powerful trend that could really have an impact on our wallets and our psyches, and it has as many different versions as people who adopt it. You don't have to live in a stark white home with one set of clothing to embrace the mindset of minimalism.
Buy used. Second hand finds are the best!
Compost plant-based left-overs. Use the compost in the garden.