WELCOME to this unusual series! Dr. Allan Schnaiberg will return tomorrow with a final chapter in his series. You may be surprised where he takes us. Today, I want to describe where he has taken me. (Feel free to scroll down on this page and read earlier stories this week. And we’d really like to hear what you’re thinking.)
One of my happy duties is getting our young son to school. We live close enough to his elementary school to walk but far enough away to justify driving on a cold day. Yesterday morning it was 15° F, providing a perfect excuse to drive. I could even take a mug of hot coffee with me.
Instead, I tried Allan’s exploration experiment.
Now, I didn’t want walking in the frigid morning to be a paternal fiat. It had to be a joint decision. I posed the pedestrian option to him, choosing to play it straight. Walking was good for Mother Nature, I said, because we wouldn’t burn gasoline or pollute. And it was good for us, an opportunity for some exercise.
“Mother Nature needs our help,” he said. “Let’s walk.”
What did we observe? First, we thought we were late: No one was on the streets. Not a soul. But we had fun, sliding across ice patches and talking about the snow that had survived a brief thaw the day before.
When we neared the first major crosswalk – a busy street, governed by a crossing guard – we started to see some people on foot, a few on bicycles. I noticed that these were the regulars – those who always walked, no matter the weather. The same ones we passed on the days we drove.
The streets near the school and the school’s circular drive were congested with cars to the point of gridlock. I have been part of that gridlock before and it felt good to avoid it.
I gleaned three lessons from this exploration experiment. First, I experienced what Greg Peterson said in a Comment this week on OurValues, org: “One of the best ways to get ourselves out of this mess — is each person doing something everyday to improve or protect the planet like reducing our respective carbon foot print. Day after day, small steps will turn into big feats.”
Second, the round trip by foot doesn’t take any more time than driving, once we factor in gridlock time.
Third, walking with my son allows for more conversation – or just quiet being together – than driving does. Perhaps the socialization of the young into greener ways takes place in moments like these, rather than the grand speeches of the green movement.
How about you?
Did you try Allan’s experiment? What did you observe?
If you didn’t, I recommend: Give it a try!
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