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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hop on the Bus, Gus -- C'mon, just try it!

Last week I posted some thoughts on taking the bus and what a stretch that was for me when I tried it in 2008 or so... I posted it to set the stage for this rant... er um, post.

I don't want to start an argument, but I for one am so sad about the oil spill in the Gulf. It's the largest man-made environmental disaster in history. I suppose we could picket BP. On my recent trip to Alaska I saw a ginormous BP skyscraper in Anchorage and glared menacingly at the building for several seconds. I sort of doubt they noticed, unfortunately...

Yes, they bungled this on many levels, and the finger-pointing will go on for years, but I know it's not completely their fault. Actually, when I finally get honest, I have to take some responsibility myself.

HUH? Yeah. Actually, you do too.

We are addicted to combustible engines people. Planes and automobiles, especially. And this is not sustainable behavior, by any stretch of the imagination. Worse, it's completely self-absorbed.

This is not going to be some statistic-filled sermon about global warming or carbon footprints... have no fear. I simply want to ask you to cut back on your personal auto travel. I'm not asking you to just sit at home and watch documentaries, or sort your silverware. I'm not saying it's admirable if you junk your current vehicle and go for a hybrid. I'm just pushing for one concept: LESS. And then MORE.

Just ponder for a moment what the effect would be if every person you know would drive one less errand per week, and/or take public transportation at least once a week. I don't know how many gallons of gas we would avoid using if this happened, or the decrease in parts-per-million of carbon thrust into the atmosphere that would occur if we drove less. Duh. You know it would have a massive, huge, gigantic impact.

Please know that I am putting my money where my mouth is. For the last two weeks I have taken the Bike Bus to work at Providence Hall, for a total of 5 trips so far. I'll admit to the downsides right away:
  • I have to get up a half hour earlier.
  • The unexpected -- I got a flat tire today. (Thanks Mo, for picking me up. Just fixed it at home.)
  • The bus doesn't come to my house, nor does it drop me off at work.
But come on... SO WHAT? It's just not all about me.

Upsides - yep, I know you're dying to hear them:
  • I save money. If you buy tickets in bulk (10 tickets), the trip only costs $1.10 per ticket.
  • No parking issues. At Providence, which is located downtown, I have to find parking beyond the 75-minute curb limits that surround us.
  • I get exercise. I am riding my bike more, obviously.
If you've known me for awhile, you know that I have been riding my bike regularly since 2003. So why is this different?

Thanks for asking. Three weeks ago I heard an interview of Mark Bittman on NPR. He's a fantastic food blogger on the New York Times. I have used many of his recipes. He was being interviewed about his latest book titled Food Matters. He calls his readers to "conscientious eating," by eating more sustainably, seasonally, simply, yada yada. All that stuff I've posted about on this blog too...

But he made a fascinating comment (I hope I don't completely get it wrong....) that stuck with me. He's apparently written at length about how we need to simply learn how to be hungry again. The interviewer asked him to expand on this thought. Bittman essentially said, We think about sex several times a day, but we don't follow through on those feelings the majority of the time.... yet when we think about food many times during the day, we think that's somehow different, and think it's fine to fulfill our desires immediately. We all need to learn how to be hungry again.

This got my attention. It's very obvious, yet it just made sense. Then I took it one step further and thought to myself, This applies in other areas of my life. Where?


I thought of this one. Driving. Why do I think I need to get to everywhere I am going according to MY schedule, by myself? Why can't I try to fit in a bit more with the rest of the human race?

Today, in Urban Dictionary, the following definition popped into my inbox:
Congreenient: The practice of recycling, or being green, only when convenient. A person who only recycles when it is convenient to do so.
If you already recycle, compost, bring your coffee cup to Starbucks, only use reusable shopping bags -- good for you. Then it's time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and keep the momentum going. Take public transportation. Ride your bike. Combine your errands into one trip. When planning a trip, try taking the train...

I've done all these regularly in 2010, and it has worked out just fine. Sure, it takes a bit more planning, and sometimes I have to not do something exactly at the times I was planning on it because I have to adjust my timing according to bus or train schedules, but big whoop. There have been plenty of benefits. I've gotten in good conversations with people on trains, in buses, at stoplights on my bike or while riding on the road. I've decided to make a little more effort to engage with my community, and be a little nicer to creation. And to have my day not rotate completely around me and what I want to do.

Here's a quote I read this morning (July 24) that builds on this line of thinking:
In a culture totally given to individualism, what relationships we may be betraying by selfishness and what it would take to cure ourselves of the self-centeredness that requires the rest of the world to exist for our own convenience. (Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict, p. 128)
I want to grow in selflessness. In a crazy way, riding my bike and taking the bus helps me to do that. Try it out for yourself.


  1. Great stuff Kel. AND you're wearing a green shirt in your profile shirt to boot! That was planned, I'm sure of it.

    I've also seen some fascinating stuff about how much of a difference just making your home energy efficient would make. Check out this fascinating post about it over at energysavvy: http://bit.ly/ayudQC

  2. Kel! I love it! This post really spoke to me, as I strive to live the simpler life lately. It's a slow transition (as you know), but I'm getting into organic food and even the raw food ideology some. I'm excited to move to Seattle and indulge in public transit more than I do here too :)
    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm proud of you!