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Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance


The high costs of paving

by Erika "Juniper" L. Kraft

At the start of the new millennium, weíre still adding to urban sprawl and contributing to global climate change. But it doesnít have to be this way. It is our acceptance of todayís wasteful economic system that may allow the planet to boil over. Food for thought and action:

What is the connection between higher energy prices, longer commutes, the urban heat island effect, one of the biggest causes of death, the loss of over one million acres of good farmland every year, species extinction, and loss of community? Paving!

Weíre conditioned to view paving as progress, as in "pave the way." As a result, thereís as much pavement surface as wilderness in this nation. Sprawl is a dirty word; yet, itís still out of control. A slowed economy spells less speculative, car-oriented real estate development. If society does not make conscious changes, inaction could lead to crises by which sprawl is stopped "the hard way."

Itís ironic that summers in urban areas are sweltering due to dwindling affordable fossil fuels for powering air conditioners, while asphalt, a form of such fuels, raises temperatures as its heat-absorbing darkness blankets cities. The resulting urban heat island effect accounts for significantly higher temperatures than surrounding green open space.

The solution? A moratorium on new roads and parking lots. It sounds disruptive or ecotopian to some, but even "depaving" has entered the lexicon, as people restore urban creeks and calm traffic by rolling back the carpet of oil. The economic, environmental and social benefits of a paving moratorium are irresistible when considered in light of the energy and environmental crisis. More pavement, especially over farmland, is irresponsible as petroleum shortage threatens todayís food supply system.

As road building hogs the lionís share ($60 billion per year) of transportation funds, the U.S. has money left to repair just barely one half of existing roads that need fixing. If the road-building budget went first towards repair, billions would be left over for development of greener, cooler and less expensive transportation systems. Expansionist growth increases electric power demand through creation of more suburbs and industrial parks.

More and wider roads facilitate the spread of motor vehicle use. CalTrans and other paving agencies know that it is not congestion alleviation, but "traffic generation" that results from added capacity. The car population increases even faster than the human one worldwide. More roads add to human population (and vice versa), as migration allows exploitation of more accessible land.

More people driving cars spoils consumer daydreams of smooth travel. In Seattle, traffic congestion costs the average commuting motorist over $900 a year in wasted fuel. This figure would be remarkably smaller with a policy of repair instead of capacity increase.

If road building had ceased as of 1990, efficient mass transit would now be much more prevalent. In these times of global warming and rising petroleum costs, as oil and natural gas reserves begin to give out, it is high time for renewable and human powered transport.

Why not electric cars and buses? Itís a few decades late for this to still be a great solution. They present only a modest improvement in air quality and they perpetuate more paving. Switching fuels will eliminate less than half of the air pollution, as mining for materials, and the energy for manufacturing, account for most of the vehicleís air pollution. The researchers who discovered this, at Germanyís Environmental Forecasting Institute, also found that total carbon dioxide emissions would increase if all cars were electric and relied on todayís electricity grid.

So letís get on our bikes and live closer to work, or work nearer to our homes. Keep your fingers crossed for renewable-energy powered rail trolleys. However, they will not be going down every street in this resource-constrained world.

Climate change, with its resulting host of problems, is accelerating. Global warming is largely a result of lack of energy conservation. The increase of greenhouse gases in the last decade has been mainly from oil-dependent transportation. This is not the time for a federal policy weak on conservation. We need to get active and reclaim our communities. Take the Pledge for Climate Protection, courtesy Sustainable Energy Institute:

1) Cut down on driving; 2) Depave my own or someone elseís driveway; 3) Unplug my television, share appliances, go off the grid; 4) Oppose road construction in urban, rural and wilderness areas; 5) Take vacations without jet travel; 6) Plant trees, collect rainwater, run the (energy-intensive) tap as little as possible; 7) Buy local products, reuse them, minimize use of petrochemicals and tree products; 8) Barter for what money-earning is supposed to provide; 9) Reduce population size over an appropriate duration; limit offspring to one, or adopt; 10) Educate others on the need to act.

Itís time for a paving moratorium as a guiding precept of sustainability. We must make this choice before our options dwindle in the pursuit of fossil-fueled living. The economy and culture will change, but we can redevelop our urban areas while some resources are still available. Blackouts amidst melting asphalt could prompt appropriate action. But it will not be pretty if we squander this window of opportunity today. Stay cool.

Erika "Juniper" L. Kraft is affiliated with Culture Change magazine as an artist, musician and editor in Arcata.


Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.


Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

Culture Change mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit torganization.