$3.49 a gallon is not enough

I piled my three kids in our compact car, which seems to get smaller as their legs grow longer, and drove to the Ashland Y this morning. It was my second time there in one day. Earlier I had biked over""it took me seven minutes to go more than halfway across town""to lift weights. I noticed as we pulled into the parking lot that almost every spot was full, and as we walked by the gym that almost every cardio machine was being used.

I don't get it. You drive to the gym in order to run on a treadmill in an air conditioned room with a lot of sweaty people? Why not run, bike, skateboard, or rollerblade to the gym? If you self-propel yourself to the gym it allows you to be outside, enjoying your neighborhood, breathing fresh air, noticing the natural beauty of our scenic town.

We know now that global warming is one of the most serious problems facing our future yet one look at the Y's parking lot reveals that not only are Ashlanders driving everywhere they need to go, but they are unashamedly driving huge gas-guzzling carbon-spewing SUVs.

It's not enough that weather patterns are changing globally with New York having springtime weather in the middle of winter and France being bizarrely chilly in the middle of July. It's not enough that there are front page reports in the New York Times of work by scientists who are gathering evidence that shows that disasters like Hurricane Katrina will become more and more frequent as the glaciers continue to melt. The very real possibility that we will pollute ourselves out of existence, like most of the cyanobacteria did when their waste product oxygen proved toxic to themselves, isn't enough to scare more of the people of Ashland &

who pride themselves on being forward-thinking and intelligent &

into not using their cars or downsizing their vehicles.

This is a small, pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly town yet when my daughter had a birthday party last year several of her friends, who lived less than three blocks away, were driven by their parents to our house.

Even $3.49/gallon isn't enough to deter us from getting in our cars. Not one of the half dozen cars my kids and I saw pulling into the parking lot had more than one person at the wheel. In Europe gas costs as much as $7.00 a gallon. Most Europeans drive small gas-efficient cars. With gas prices so high, people can't afford to drive more than they absolutely need to. Many Parisians have those two-seater cars that are so small they look like toys to our American eyes, and they fit into parking spaces made for motorcycles.

It's not enough to be worried about global warming and to kvetch about how our policy makers need to make top-down changes. We need to start by changing our own behavior, by trading in those big vehicles for fuel-efficient ones (or parking the SUVs and leaving them parked or converting to biodiesel or hybrids), by refusing to be brainwashed by the car industry's advertisements (ever wonder why there are ads for SUVs in magazines and TV shows slated towards children?) and by the American mania that bigger is better.

My father has two cars (an SUV and a compact) for three people, my brother has two cars (an SUV and a compact) for a family of four. "Having a car is a necessity not a luxury," a friend insisted when I suggested he find another way to get to work in the morning. What's necessary about climate change? Once it's entirely upon us, it will be too late. Perhaps if the entire State of Oregon doubled the price of gas Ashlanders would think twice about driving everywhere (and , hey, we could reopen the libraries).

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