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Environmentalism, Abandoned

March 20, 2011

When I lived in California, where the weather was mild and public transit decent, I ditched my car.  I was a single mom with a very modest income, was paying for childcare, couldn’t afford to park at work, and was staring down the end of a lease.  Seemed like the right thing to do.  While I remember knowing it was good for the environment that I was taking public transportation (and later bicycling) to work instead of driving, I do not remember that it was the primary reason for decision.  I remember money being the primary issue.  Although, I’m sure I could have afforded a used car, in lieu of the very new Honda Accord that I had, left over from the days of Being Married.  I wanted to make a go of a car-free, lower expense lifestyle.

But as the girls entered elementary school, first in Berkeley, CA, and later in our very progressive little town in New England, the Environment became something that was important to them.

Very important.

They harped at US about leaving lights on.  About recycling.  About light bulb choices.

And they balked every time I talked about bringing an end to our days of being carless.

I remember one day, in January, probably 2 or 3 years ago, I was having guests over that night, and needed to go to the store.  The Trader Joe’s I was heading for was just under a mile away.  It was 10 degrees outside.  Mouse wanted to come with me for the walk.

It was FREEZING.  And we were kind of miserable.  We had scarves around our faces and couldn’t really talk on the walk, because we couldn’t hear each other through the scarves and over the wind.  the way home was worse, because then we were lugging bags of groceries.  “Doesn’t this make you wish we had a car?” I asked Mouse (I was campaigning).  “NO!” She was so adamant.  “Mom, we can’t get a car until they make electric cars!”

The kids kept getting older, and their extra curriculars were increasingly less local.  Instead of playing soccer on a field 4 blocks from home, they were playing in other towns.  We had been zipcar users since we moved to the Boston area, and the costs started to get very, very high. I started to track the costs, and saw that we were easily spending a car payment per month on zipcar use.  And so I started to save for a downpayment.

The girls were devastated.  They were so adamant that this was the Wrong Thing to Do.  WD was stuck in the middle, but as the main driver in the house, I think he saw the benefits to having a car.

Mouse even started to cry at one point.  “but if we buy a car, we’re going to start to drive everywhere!”  I told her we would not.  We would still walk more than we drove, but that trips out of town and soccer carpools and soccer games were becoming too difficult without a car of our own.  She made me promise we wouldn’t drive to the school or the store or to the town center.  And that I wouldn’t drive to work.

We bought the car.  It’s coming up on 2 years ago.

This morning?

We had complaints and arguments with BOTH girls.  About what?

1)  With Lemon – her starting to bike to her crew practices, on the other side of the river.  Actually – not even.  We argued about whether or not we were goign to take her bike out of the garage today to make sure it still fits her, and to tune it up, and to get her more comfortable on it, so we can start to talk about her biking to crew practices.  The drive is a horrible one, and biking would likely take less time, in light of traffic, one way roads, and other issues.  There is a group of parents talking to their high school students about biking this route instead, and we would not be shoving her into the street alone, and we would make several trips with her before leaving her to her own devices.  But still, this is horrible of us.  Just horrible.

2)  Telling Mouse that of 4 trips to and from soccer a week, the parents feel that her and 6 of her teammates can actually walk to the field.  She was horrified that we would expect them to do such a thing.  “But it’s sooooo farrrrrr!  I can’t do it!”

The walk is the exact same as that walk in freezing cold January that Mouse and I took to buy groceries.  The one where she was not persuaded that owning a car would be preferable.  Now we’re talking the same EXACT distance (seriously, I just checked it on Google Maps), with her friends, once a week, and it’s torturous.

These are not the first such arguments.  Lemon and I had a similar one on Friday night, about her walking less than a mile to an appointment because the rest of us had to be somewhere else at the same time.  because of a variety of considerations, she won that battle.  But 2 weeks ago she was going to a friend’s house – again, the same distance, and she demanded a ride.  It was one of the first days that was above 40 degrees in weeks, and sunny out.  I refused.  I told her I’d pick her up later (it was supposed to rain in the afternoon), but that I wasn’t driving her to a place that she’d always been fine walking to.  She complained and whined, but eventually came to terms with the walk.  And ended up walking home without asking me to pick her up.

But it all feels pretty ridiculous.  How easily they forget, how quickly their priorities and ideologies have changed.

Laziness is a powerful, powerful thing.

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