Editor's note: Depaving is a term
for taking up the pavement. English speakers commonly do not recognize the
word "depave." A radio program in
Mendocino County, California, once introduced an album I had recorded as "Songs
from a Depraved Driveway." Until the populace knows the word "depave"
well, the ecosystem is in trouble and millions of people's survival is in doubt. Toward
doing my part I have come close to changing my name from Jan Lundberg to Depaver Jan.
It took me until now to realize I can always be Depaver Jan Lundberg. Now,
on with the Petroleum Tour! It's "free." - DJL
Step out of your door and
you're on the Petroleum Tour whether you like it or not.
Even before that, hitting the floor may mean toxic PVC plastic or synthetic carpet for
your feet: a petroleum treat. Ignoring the many other instances of
petrochemicals that you probably have in the home -- in all rooms -- and maybe on
your body for clothing and in the form of residue from shampoo or deodorant, the most
fun of this Petroleum Tour is outside. Are you ready?
Let us venture beyond our doors, painted with petroleum-based paint, to a little
appreciated source of petroleum fumes: a shoe store. The Shoe Pavilion in
Berkeley, California, on Shattuck Avenue, nearly knocked me back onto the
sidewalk when I naively entered in search of some shoelaces earlier this
year. I was so repulsed by the overwhelming smell that I preferred
the sidewalk even though it's a car-exhaust zone. Perhaps that particular
store lacks ventilation. But with good ventilation, the fumes would be
polluting the outside world at large.
For my shoelaces I found a cobbler's
shop and bought a strip of leather which I cut in two. These laces, though
made of exploited cow, are holding up nicely. The cow of course was on a
huge "petroleum diet," as readers of Diet for a New America
(John Robbins' book) know.
We like to be healthy, so we buy some
natural herbal medicines that have been derived (standardized) via petroleum
solvents. Or, we are tough cookies and choose to smoke, using a petroleum
(butane) lighter. As we throw the cigarette butt in the gutter, some
plastic remains in the filter for our beloved environment.
Out on the street one sees nothing but flat surfaces for vehicles and
people. The asphalt is not the only example (besides Astroturf) of
pavement made of petroleum: concrete's manufacture involves huge amounts of
energy (often of petroleum), making it one of the top greenhouse gas sources
What's wrong with pavement? Plenty. At a time when the industrial
world's food supply is so vulnerable to collapse -- due to over-reliance on
dwindling natural gas and oil for growing, irrigating, distributing, packaging and
preparing food -- we will all soon wish that so much good land for growing crops was
not paved over. There is more paved land than official wilderness in the
The hard pavement hurts our feet and knees and compresses our spinal
columns. Some day a class-action lawsuit may be filed against city
governments for failing to provide softer, natural walking surfaces. There
is a reason that running tracks are of dirt or even petroleum rubber. The
damage to our joints and tissues from hard ground and floors is major,
preventing many in the middle aged and elderly populations from walking and
running to a significant degree. Pavement was designed in part for the
human foot, but the human foot was not designed for pavement. On any
modern tour, one ought to be sensitive to the hardness of the surface for
walking. So on the sidewalks it is best to take advantage of any planted
or dirt or gravel area that may afford softness to our feet that may be
aching. The flatness is an illusory benefit, and can be counteracted by
deliberately walking on any irregular surface such as cracks in the sidewalks or
seeds and debris from trees. You'll look crazy or childish, but does your
body matter less than the opinions of the unaware, in-car-cerated sheople?
San Luis Obispo Creek, California, downtown.
The creek was daylighted and you can hop across on rocks. Kirstin Miller
of Ecocity Builders is shown with a former mayor of the town.
The U.S. urban and suburban landscape is almost entirely devoted to cars and other motor vehicles. (There
are parks, but more area is commonly devoted to asphalted playgrounds of
schools.) Although many vehicles are not propelled by petroleum, or have
the potential to be propelled by non-petroleum means, petroleum is the reality
for almost all vehicles. For besides gasoline, diesel and compressed
natural gas, there is the energy for making the cars, the tires, the plastics,
and the asphalt they roll on. The latter is from oil, mixed with some
gravel and busted glass from the bottles you thought you were recycling.
Trains are an alternative to cars, buses and trucks, but on our Petroleum Tour
we must look around in our train car. Except for some steel handrails,
window frames and outer doors, every surface is a form of petroleum. On a
sleeper train, the sheets and curtains in the cabins are made from polyester, a
petroleum product. Even if harmless, such sheets are not soft to the
skin. Less than a century ago the train cars contained substantial amounts
of wood. And the air in train cars was not, until recent decades, filled
with petrochemical molecules from the degrading surfaces of the train car's
components. Despite such filth, the average person is fixated still on
whether there is any dirt from natural mud, or if there are any superficial
stains, rather than if the surfaces of things we touch are contributing such
things as deca BDE, the PCB-like flame retardant, into the air for our bodies to
Now for the "fossil fueled free lunch." Drive to a restaurant,
sit at a plastic counter as you hold a laminated plastic menu, drink water
(pumped most likely by petroleum) in a plastic cup with a plastic straw, and
enjoy your meal of foods shipped on the average of 1,500 miles if you are eating
in the "Land of the Shopping Spree and the Home of the Slave."
James Howard Kunstler, author of Geography of Nowhere, refers to the 3,000 mile
caesar salad in the documentary film The End of Suburbia.
Now that we have satiated our bodies and incorporated some petroleum plastics
into our bodies due to chemical migration into food and water, it is time to do
some more work or divert oneself: Turn on the computer and you touch
petroleum plastic, use other petroleum components, and probably rely on the
electric grid which warms the globe. (That's okay, because the wonder of
science allows us to read the latest studies on global warming on our computers
thanks to the amazing Internet.) The cyberworld you enter is a petroleum
cage. The poisons associated with the computer industry is a separate
topic. We can state generally that the countless poisons derived from
petroleum and coal are on the loose with government approval or
"regulation." And when non-petroleum chemicals and
substances are derived, the catalyst or solvent may be a form of petroleum.
Go to a concert or a rally, and the
often petroleum-fueled public address system blasts one's ears to kingdom come,
as if we are all hard of hearing. Even churches designed for good
acoustics have unnecessary, booming and echoing sound systems. Somehow it
is considered necessary whereas several decades ago it was impossible, as masses
of people always enjoyed music and speech.
We are all on this Petroleum Tour in most ways, every day of our lives. We
are oblivious that our daily support system of petroleum props up our lifestyles
and survival -- or we pretend otherwise. It is so much more pleasant and
popular to think of other things, whether it be the return of a Messiah or the
veracity of the latest titillating female celebrity's breasts.
We have all heard of "War for Oil." A Petroleum Tour of Duty is
when a God-fearing patriot goes (via jet fuel) to a non-white country to kill
and risk getting killed. Nowadays it's in oil-rich Iraq where over 90% of
the population has, since soon after the invasion, wanted the invaders out of
their country pronto. Upon death, a GI takes two more legs of his or her
Petroleum Tour: a plane ride back to the States, where the coffin is prevented
from being photographed even by the compliant corporate news media. Then
there's the last ride -- in a hearse. The family also drives to the
cemetery, maybe putting some plastic flowers amidst the petrochemical-treated
lawn, and drives home to consume in sorrow some petroleum-derived and delivered
foods and drinks. All things considered, is it really enough to question
foreign policy and the honesty of a George Bush or the similarly bent John
To try not to be on the Petroleum Tour is a challenge. Unless one is in
nature, without petroleum-technology, the Petroleum Tour cannot be left
behind. It's almost like being caught in The Twilight Zone. But we
will all leave behind this near century-long Petroleum Tour when oil supplies
become suddenly and seriously short for an extended period. That time
could be imminent due to the peaking of global oil supplies, combined with the
expected instantaneous market response.
The alternatives to petroleum are not ready on a massive enough scale to permit
a seamless transition, whereby the Petroleum Tour is hoped -- without foundation -- to slide into a Renewable Energy Technofix Tour.
Meanwhile, some of us are living a "boycott petroleum" lifestyle to
some extent, or are paving the way to a future without petroleum.
Besides eschewing plastic bags and dairy containers as well as soda bottles,
some people have no cars and have alternative forms of heat for their
Depaving originated here in Berkeley,
by Richard Register of Ecocity Builders. One can thus enjoy a nice park on
Halcyon Court in south Berkeley, where one may sit near flowers, where the
pavement formerly offered up its lifeless heat. And a creative home-owner
on Bonar Street in west Berkeley last summer depaved his driveway and back yard
in order to have more garden space.
On Earth Day and every day, such
examples of freeing the Earth and ourselves ought to be emulated
everywhere. Earth Night would call for guerilla depaving, defended
-- from dawn's rosy light onward -- with civil disobedience.
Berkeley depaving in early 1990s. [courtesy Richard
Register, Ecocity Builders]
Why do we grow our own food when we can
support the global economy by buying at Safeway or Walmart? One reason is
to do some funky recycling. Urine is a most valuable fertilizer for the
garden and orchard when diluted and applied as needed. Natural gas is a
major component of petrochemical fertilizer. We are all better off without
it and without the pesticides made from petroleum as well. Cuba lost its
petroleum and had to go organic for agriculture and bicycle-bus oriented for
transportation. To combine these sensible approaches happens when one
creates pedal-power produce transport.
On a bicycle the rider is using petroleum due mostly to the tires, although some
rubber-tree derived tires no doubt exist -- they comprised the majority of tires
for all vehicles until 1974. Biking involves a tiny fraction of the
petroleum dependence that cars represent, although a bike is forced to share the
petroleum asphalt with cars. This may be karma, as it was the bicycling
League of American Wheelmen over a hundred years ago that forced society to
provide pavement. Walking uses only the petroleum-soles of shoes, and is
more relaxing than biking which can be stressful for its danger. Biking is
the Petroleum Tour On Speed, because one is quickly rolling over hard asphalt
that can permanently injure -- in an instant -- if one unexpectedly meets
the ground. Or a petroleum-powered car's door can open right into the
rider, even in a bike lane.
In the midst of overpopulation, the "rats in the cage" do their best
to remain calm while having to concentrate on their self interest. The
requirement of remaining calm -- being unable to do anything about the general
Babylon situation -- takes a toll, and it conditions us to be non-reactive while
we slowly boil like the proverbial frog in the slowly heating
One reason we do not question the
Petroleum Tour, i.e., our lives as obedient consumers, is that we have gone to
public school for twelve years. In school we were never taught that we
were dangerously and unsustainably petroleum dependent, but we were always
taught to conform and submit to coercion. Even in the lofty heights of
academia, the best universities do not teach that petroleum gluttony is a
short-term phenomenon in human history that will be interrupted by chaotic
deprivation and die-off.
Nor is the future ecological society of
mutual cooperation -- based on local resources, local self reliance and local
political control -- explored or planned in schools or other institutions.
The student rats of today don't care much about Petroleum War, until they might
be drafted. Until then, they dream of getting a "good job" so as
to afford a "nice car." So, aspiring yuppies,
"Onward!" with the Petroleum Tour, right off the ecological cliff as
Listen to a new interview with Depaver Jan Lundberg on the
Steppin' Out of Babylon show, at www.suesupriano.com
where Jan has started to conduct interviews as well. Next is the
pepperspray torture trial interview series, recorded in mid April in San
Builders is holding a conference on May 31 in Oakland, Calif., commemorating
World Environment Day. Ecocity Builders was founded and is headed by the
Depaving Guru: Richard Register.
Pachamama Alliance - helping
North Americans help the Amazonian Indians resist oil development by
"Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream."
World Rainforest Fund - founded and headed by David Seaborg, evolutionary
biologist (see www.suesupriano.com
for online interview of Dave by Jan Lundberg)
Knotwood Alliance takes credit for the photo of plant coming up through
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