Monday, August 23, 2010

Gizmo Rebounds, or How I Spent Two Grand on Things I Don't Understand

Gizmo is his new old self again
Before mechanic
Loose transmission, and fear
After - all, all right

In the interests of respect for his mechanical privacy, I won't go into great detail regarding Gizmo's recent travails, other than to mention terms like front drive shafts, rebuilt transmission, clutch kit, speedo drive gear, machine flywheel, conniption-inducing invoice - you get the picture.  

Cars are lifelines to the world, and they can be money pits and excessive polluters, and just plain ugly (you know who you are).  But without them, there's either a lot of inertia, or a lot of walking or cycling going on, especially in areas where public transport is scarce or poor, or both.

I already liked walking before Gizmo's troubles, and I like it even more since I had to put up with no transport for a few days and had the opportunity to stroll instead of drive to the municipal library, and back to the garage, once he was repaired and ready to go.  More tasty Verandakus came my way as well.

But my travelling choices were limited, and I waited to get him back before I could go shopping for groceries and pay some bills, and get out to the university library for more books (otherwise two trains, a bus and over an hour away, times 2 for the return trip).  You really can't travel on public transport with dozens of grocery bags or library books.  And some enterprises just don't have online payment systems in place.  Thus, the need for speed, and storage space, on wheels.

So, if we want a less polluted world, what do we do?  How would you get through your day without your car?  Do you already manage without one?  How?  Great public transport?  Good balance and a 10-speed bike on safe bikeways?  Are local markets part of the answer?  I think they are.  What about online shopping and online libraries with digital books?  But a courier still delivers the goods, in a car or van or truck, almost all of them with old-fashioned engines.

And who has the time to spend their days hauling bags home from the shops while taxis stand idling (and polluting) nearby?  Who can wait for relatively long periods at bus stops and train stations, unless, of course, you're on your way to buy tickets to Bette Midler's concert tour, in which case waiting becomes a transcendent experience inspiring 999 more Verandakus.  But I digress.

Alternative energies are the answer.  If I could afford an electric (or solar-powered) car, or a hybrid, I'd seriously consider buying one, if the claims lived up to the hype.  I think we're in a transitional (and lately, for Gizmo, a transmissional) era in our world's history. 

The policies of governments around the world will largely determine how our planet continues to turn, and whether or not alternative modes of transport and sources of energy are made available to all citizens, regardless of wealth.  It's a question of vision, and leadership, and courage - alas, these are attributes not often found in your average political bear.

So.  Localisation, decentralisation, natural energy sources - we can all contribute somehow.  Here at Veranda Life, we've managed to keep the basil, parsley, mint, garlic chives and oregano alive and ready for the next stir-fry and tabbouleh and salad.  I'm walking to the library rather than driving, and I already vote for political parties with Green credentials and policies.  It's the least I can do, and sometimes, given our suburban strictures, it's the most I can do.  But let's keep doing it. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, or one turn of the ignition - one day it'll be a silent, pollution-free ignition, or one turn of the soil in the herb garden.

Try doing something pollution-free or pollution-reducing today - the smallest action matters - just ask the beached starfish that got tossed back into the sea. 

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