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Pave paradise and put up a parking lot

June 26th, 2008 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Issues | Personal

There are things that strike you in the oddest places.

Something that I’ve been trouble with for a while is the fact that we live in a world where very few people seem to think about anything but themselves. We don’t care about changing our habits, we don’t care about the way we treat people – it’s all about our convenience. We drive SUVs because it’s convenient for us and we don’t give them up until the price of gas starts to effect us. We don’t really worry about how much energy we’re using and what we’re doing for climate change because shouldn’t someone else be responsible for making those changes?

This has never been clearer than in the parking lot at Dairy Queen last night. People were parked everywhere. If there were no spaces it didn’t matter, they would just park somewhere. It didn’t matter that they were blocking someone else in or making it impossible to open the car door or move around the parking lot. All this for ice cream. I don’t understand why it wouldn’t occur to any of these people that they were causing a huge inconvenience – Unless it did occur to them, it just didn’t matter.

Parking seems to be the thing for me. I’ve seen people park illegally because they’re just going to be a few minutes, I saw a woman park in front of a fire hydrant during a time of day when parking on that street wasn’t permitted because she was only going to be a few minutes. Last winter, when there was four feet of snow on the ground and no place to put it I went to the doctor. The parking lot at my doctor’s office is not large and with all that snow trying to find a place to be it was even smaller. I drove around three or four times trying to find a space and finally ended up at the right place, right time when someone else was leaving. When I came out there was an SUV parked in a non-space right behind me, leaving me only one direction to be able to get out of my spot, when I finally maneuvered myself out of that spot, I found that two other cars had parked in the lane on the other side of the lot – one on the curb, next to a fire hydrant, in front of the disabled parking – leaving me barely enough room to get out without getting stuck or scratching my car and theirs.

At this point I started crying out of complete frustration.

Why does no one look at the situation before doing something like that?

I have always been the kind of person who tries to do no harm – Mostly because I try to stay in the background and not get noticed. I try to stay out of the way, stay invisible. I’m not always successful at this, but I don’t think I’ve ever caused anyone to cry in frustration.

Now to the main frustration in my life right now: The environment.

I don’t know what to do about climate change. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, reading about it, watching other people do things, but I don’t know what to do about me and my actions.

There are things I think I do well, there are things I know I have to change (and am trying to remind myself to change) and there are things I am unwilling to change. There are also things I know I can’t do, for instance: I am a renter (for the time being), I would love to be able to improve the insulation in my home and replace the windows, and even consider applying solar panels, but I don’t have that option. I don’t have the option of buying energy efficient appliances.

All these things, by the way, are things that frustrate me about the Liberal Green Shift. It’s all well and good to increase costs to force people to make smarter choices, but where are the solutions? It seems as though my costs will just go up and up with no options for me to change that, being a renter and someone who can’t afford to buy a hybrid at the moment, but still needs to go places.

I do what I can – I turn off the lights, we use compact fluorescent bulbs, we go to the farmer’s market to buy local produce, I take the bus to work, we’re moving into a smaller place (which is newly renovated, so should be much more energy efficient and should also have high efficiency appliances) that also happens to be within walking distance from the husband’s workplace so he won’t be driving anymore. I also want to start composting if we can, along with the recycling we do.

What I don’t do well is that I am a consumer. I fully admit and realize that I have bought in to the North American consumer culture and while I believe that I think about the problems of the world more than some other people, I also know that there are times when I’m not thinking about those problems at all (or my financial responsibilities) just that I want to go to the mall, and I feel as though I really need that new pair of pants.

I have been told that just by thinking about these things I am doing something that others might not be, but it’s the thinking about it that makes it so hard. I often think that being stupid would be so much easier. I think about the climate, and Zimbabwe, and Darfur, and Afghanistan, and Burma, and China, and parking lots and I wonder how I can really consider having children (something that on other days seems like an inevitability) in a world that’s in so much trouble – In a world that I often hate. Knowing that my children will be just as passionate about these things as my husband and I, how can I really consider having any?

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