On the third day of our driving experiment I split my time between two different states. The day started off quite early as Nathaniel and I attended the Thurston Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Policy Board Meeting. The Transportation Policy Board is made up of various members of Thurston County, including private businesses, City Council members, citizen participants and a variety of others. When I entered the room, any idealism about making big waves in transportation dropped dead. In a group such as this, with no actual power to enact their recommendations, they can be as free to discuss whatever they choose. I had hoped for a bunch of people foaming at the mouth, demanding mass transit options immediately. I wanted to see some real anger, some feistiness, with people getting a bit nasty. I understand that I was not cut out to be a politician. The meeting provided a glimpse of what the nitty-gritty work looks like when dealing with transportation. There are many interests that need attention and many factors that must be considered when making a decision. Anything important takes a lot of time, but discussing transportation at 7 in the morning around coffee and doughnuts (I couldn’t help but partake in the free breakfast) really brought me to ground level. I was disappointed that Nathaniel and I were the only visitors from the community, but given the time of the meeting, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

After Nathaniel and I parted ways, I drove back home and passed out for a few hours before waking to leave for Sea-Tac airport. I was headed to Chicago for a long weekend to celebrate Passover with my extended family. When my dad called me up a few weeks before the trip and asked if I wanted to go, I had a few issues I had to think through. I told him I was doing a contract on sustainable transportation and how unsustainable it was to be flying halfway across the country. To this he responded “but you’ve got to sustain your family as well.” This hit at an issue that I have spent considerable time thinking and discussing with others. My protest to flying was that it is a high impact activity, using many resources to get me to my destination. These are costs that can be calculated, such as fuel, air pollution, smog, etc. On the other hand, what is the cost of not staying up to date with relatives, “sustaining my family,” as my dad had put it? There is no way to calculate that cost, which is something that needs to be part of any discussion involving sustainability. On our path towards sustainability, what are we willing to sacrifice, and what are we not? This touches on justification and rationalization again and in this case, I decided to take the trip. I had not been to Passover in a few years and besides seeing my family, I would also have a chance to see a few of my close friends who were also in Chicago.

This type of activity, seeing your family or taking a small trip, will not be completely thrown out the window in the name of sustainability. This is not a reasonable expectation of people. We have set up a society with certain features that we are now trying to change, in Nathaniel and my case it is transportation, but along that way to change, we are still dependent on the old system. I would have rather taken a bullet train across the country to reach my destination, but that is not an option I currently have available to me. Critics might say that I am being a hypocrite, that while knocking the way we do things I still partake in them. I would say this is a fair critique, but would also point out that in any movement attempting to create great change, there is always a gray area where remnants of the old must still be used to create the new. On the lighter side of things, I have but one life to live, and when an opportunity comes along to see family and friends, I will usually try to make it happen. I don’t feel I should have to apologize for wanting to fulfill that need, as I was born into a world that I did not design. I feel the cognitive dissidence in my decisions, as I’m sure we all do. The most I can do is work on creating a world where no one feels guilty about traveling to see their family.

The drive to Sea-Tac wasn’t all that miserable as I had a few friends accompany me. They were going to continue on to Seattle after they had dropped me off at the airport. I never had to dip below 55 mph on the drive and my roommate and I split $20 of gas for the van. Had I taken the bus from downtown Olympia, I would have had to start at 10:30 this morning to make sure I got there on time. We didn’t leave the house until 1:20pm and got there in an hour flat. I flew in to Minneapolis where my parent’s picked me up at the airport. The drive from the airport to my house is 9 miles and took around 16 minutes.This is where I would stay the night, as we were to leave the next morning, on another flight to Chicago. 

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