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TRANSPORTATION CRISIS?


We

live in the best of all possible worlds. Indeed, we export our way of life

zealously to those who haven’t yet tasted its rewards, especially to residents

of China, India and Brazil, the big markets as we now know them. When systemic

problems arise at home, our leaders use the tested axioms of free-market

prosperity to solve them: privatize, or use government funds to pay corporate

campaign contributors to help solve the crisis. In California, as everyone

knows, we have energy and transportation crises. So, our corporate and

government masterminds will finance more freeway building and increase the

number of cars on the road. Each morning, I hear the sounds of bulldozers and

heavy road building equipment; a freeway under construction just 200 yards from

my house. What a divine blend those large internal combustion engines make each

morning with birds chirping and leaf blowers chattering. The clouds of dust that

settle over the grass and flowers, that seep into nostrils and eyes well, a

small price to pay for progress.

The

new freeway after all will facilitate automobile commuters’ journeys in their

seventy miles trek from San Bernadino to downtown Los Angeles. Tens of thousands

of three and four bedroom units — as houses are now called — are currently

under construction in suburban communities east of LA. What’s a few hundred

thousand more people in an area that already contains some 12 million! The

region has a dubious supply of water, mostly stolen, or borrowed, from other

regions and, of course, suffers from rolling blackouts. But development, as such

construction is euphemistically know, pushes ever on. The great philosopher,

Rush Limbaugh, addresses my concerns about noise and smog, which accompany a

transportation system based on the divinely mandated “one passenger per car”

formula. Limbaugh, like the other conservative commentators that nearly

monopolize AM talk radio, doesn’t believe the reports about global warming, but

he does believe that God intended us to own as many SUVs as our hearts desire.

To Limbaugh, public transportation smacks of socialism. Besides, Southern

Californians have learned to love their cars and tolerate torturous conditions

daily to maintain the car as their sole means of transportation — if not their

closest friend. Many in the southland have even given pet names to their cars

and SUVs.

A

recently published study in the Los Angeles Times shows that LA commuters

averaged 56 hours last year sitting immobile — not even inching along — on our

world famous freeways. Residents of other car-loving cities spent a few hours

less in these situations. This is institutionalized loneliness. Imagine spending

the equivalent of two entire days plus one full working shift sitting on a

freeway, exhaust fumes pouring out of thousands of vehicles and seeping into you

car! But listening to books on tape may help. The study didn’t say whether

tuning in to Limbaugh generates road rage as he berates the long-gone Clintons

and argues loudly and belligerently in favor of the rich pay8ing ever less in

taxes.

Lkimbaugh and the wise men who offer freeways and cars to meet transportation

needs, offer solutions to the energy crisis as well. As the president, a

well-known free-trader, announced: we must drill for oil off shore and in the

virgin wilderness. If God hadn’t us to drill in those remote places, why would

he have put the oil there in the first place, intimates Limbaugh. Since we

export and import almost everything else, why not import more oil. Let’s not

even talk about semi-socialist endeavors like wind and solar power or other non

fossil fuel energy sources.

So, W

plans to solve the energy crisis in a multifold manner, mainly by lowering taxes

for the rich the truly clever will figure this out — and drilling in virgin

areas. And, presumably, he will help diffuse the transportation crisis by

encouraging Congress to spend ever more money building freeways to accommodate

more cars. Air pollution and smog that ensue from such solutions — well, use

Visine to deal with the effects of smog. It does actually give slight temporary

help for the inflammation caused by the dust in my eyes. I’m sure there’s some

product to buy for my nose as well, and I can spray the tops of the flowes and

remove the daily film from their petals as well.

Since

our very system depends upon perpetual growth driven by the government’s

incentives to the private sector – we call it development our leaders don’t dare

mention building a public rail system or God forbid limiting growth. Our system

assumes that each individual should have the ability to buy as many cars, houses

and boats as he or she pleases, regardless of race, color or creed. Eventually,

the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians will also learn these lessons, as they adopt

our way of life. Then, they too can live in the best of all possible worlds.

Saul Landau is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach

Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

  

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