An editorial in our local paper this morning claims that most Oregonians don’t want to adopt a low-carbon fuel standard proposed by the Governor because it would make gas prices higher. It also claims that, since Oregon’s contribution to carbon dioxide levels is relatively low, there’s no reason to work at getting it even lower. Oh, the feeling of despair that stirs in me! To make it worse, the paper reported today that auto, motorcycle, pedestrian and bicycle accidents are all up in Oregon. Why? Because, the paper says, since gas prices have dropped, more people are driving. As simple as that. So, knowing this, the editorial staff actually advised its readers to contact their representatives to tell them not to support the low-carbon initiative. What planet are they living on? Not mine.
My husband is one of the few people I know who really, truly tries to drive as little as he can. We do not live right on a bus line, but he walks a mile or so to catch the bus pretty much whenever he goes out. I’m not as dedicated, but I do ride the bus quite often. Almost none of my friends ever do. In their defense, it is very time consuming and not always very convenient. Still.
So here’s my question: What ever happened to doing the right thing? Not because it is cheaper, but because it is just the right thing do to? I always get annoyed when people talk about getting solar panels or driving a hybrid just to save money. We have solar panels and drive a hybrid and recycle and compost because we are trying to lower our carbon footprint. Why do we feel so alone in doing this?
I bet some of you reading this think I’m being self-righteous, right? OK. Fair enough. But consider this: the other day I looked into a dumpster sitting in front of my neighbor’s house (it was one of those low-sided ones, so I wasn’t snooping) and was dismayed to see the thing full of cardboard boxes and other recyclables. These are 30-something professionals with small children who moved up to Oregon from California. I can’t believe they know better; it makes me think they just don’t care. I want you to know I did not put a note on their dumpster, which by the way, was the third one they’ve had this year. I shudder to think of what went in the landfill from the other ones.
I realize that this issue raises the hackles of people on both sides. But whether you believe in climate change or not, doesn’t it just make sense to use less fossil fuel? If not to lower carbon emissions, then just to ease traffic? (which is terrible and getting worse in Portland) Or just to keep the number of accidents down? All of these are reasons to drive less, but really, self-righteous or not, we need to do it because it is the right thing to do.