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July 16, 2009 / sadhbhanu

The Hummer Driver in Me

See Original Article in the Chicago Tribune

hummer 

Outta my way!

The Hummer driver in me

By Sadhbh Walshe December 07, 2008

“Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw once said that every woman who comes to New York is looking for a good job, a good apartment and a good man. I moved here a while ago and stumbled on a man rather quickly. It all seemed too good to be true until he offered to drive me home in his Hummer.

For many people this would not be an issue, but for a tree-hugging liberal like me, it brought about a huge dilemma. Before the move to New York I lived in Los Angeles, a city divided into two distinct camps—not red or blue or even Republican or Democrat—but the Hummer versus the Prius. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a Hummer gets approximately 13 miles to the gallon. The Prius averages 48. I was firmly in the Prius camp. I reduced, reused and recycled everything from tin cans to tea bags and smugly flipped off Hummer drivers whenever the occasion arose.

Now all of a sudden I was being seduced by the enemy camp and my pious way of life was under threat. Initially I thought that it was just a matter of time before I had the Hummer driver begging for mercy, and trading in his gas guzzler for a greener model. But as usual, my romantic life didn’t go remotely according to plan. Instead of converting this guy to my way of thinking, I started to embrace the Hummer driver in me. There was something about driving around in that global symbol of wastefulness that sparked a fire of desire and soon I lost myself entirely. I was still green as ever on the dating front, but when it came to the environment, I stopped caring. Sometimes you just want to flush the toilet, you know? Almost subconsciously, I started to leave the faucet running while I brushed my teeth, lights on all over the house, and windows open while the thermostat was jacked way up. Even worse I found a way to justify these excesses. General Motors is on the verge of collapse and likely to bring down what’s left of the economy with it. Maybe the Prius drivers with their low-impact, foreign imports had a lot to answer for.

Before my dalliance with the Hummer driver, I never understood the global-warming deniers. But now I was getting some insight into why people preferred to be unconscious. There’s nothing seductive about abstinence and austerity, but recklessness is intoxicating. Careless consumption is fun. Greed is fun. Driving around New York City in an armored tank is fun. Why was the onus on me and the other hemp wearers anyway? Did we really think that our compost piles and cloth bags were going to compensate for the environmental damage caused by huge corporations and people with utility bills that exceeded the gross national product of small nations? If our government could take a back seat to the global meltdown, didn’t I get to ride shotgun for a while?

But then one day as I was listening to the Hummer’s XM radio, and the lead news story of the day gave me pause. It was a UN report about the latest threat to the environment. It went like this: “A 3-kilometer-thick brown cloud of soot, particles and chemicals stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to Asia is contributing to glacial melting, reducing sunlight and threatening health and food supplies.” I had to repeat this sentence out loud. “A 3-Kilometer-Thick Brown Cloud of Soot, Particles and Chemicals Stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to Asia. Three. Kilometers. Thick.”

Wow. I’m no expert but that sounds kind of serious. At what point do we get real about this? How many tsunamis, wildfires, hurricanes, floods and other “natural” disasters will it take? How many species have to go extinct? How many cities have to sink before we finally act quickly and comprehensively to stop the destruction of that which nourishes us?

I shifted uncomfortably in the passenger seat and knew that this was not the appropriate vehicle for my outrage. My green conscience clicked back into gear as it became clear again that personal responsibility was not just a lifestyle choice, but a life-preserving necessity.

Oscar Wilde and his deathbed duel with the wallpaper sprang to mind. The Hummer and I could not coexist. One of us has to go.

As it happened, the Hummer driver disappeared soon afterward and I was back riding the subway.

A cloud hung over me for a little while, but at least it wasn’t 3 kilometers thick.

Sadhbh Walshe is a filmmaker and former staff writer for the CBS series “The District.”

(c) The Chicago Tribune

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