Depaving? WTF is that? Digging up the driveway? Interested, then read on, **** On Depaving http://www.smmirror.com/Volume1/issue51/on_depraving.html Today's anxiety over higher gasoline prices is not an issue for those who choose to not own a car. Not only is the car-free sector of the U.S. population panic-free over high gas prices, but car-less folk may be enviable for their greater enjoyment of their community. Activists and planners are also beginning to make urban areas more friendly to walking and biking. Trains running on cleaner, renewable energy are also a possibility if public spending priorities shifted away from driving. Such land use and transportation measures along with car-free living need to be considered at a time when road rage is on the rise, with or without gas price jumps. And, oil is a dwindling resource. Perhaps the most immediate detrimental effect of oil is from one product, asphalt: pavement has encroached on our living space so as to raise urban temperatures while stealing both farmland and wildlife habitat. Band-aid solutions are many, but the movement for sustainability has a sophisticated vision that has wide appeal, if we can slow down and take a look around. Los Angeles can learn from other cities, such as Portland, Oregon. There activists recently succeeded in having a city ordinance passed to allow every intersection to be traffic-calmed so as to become a neighborhood's social hub. Corner kiosks and street parties will start to decrease the urge to drive for distant needs and thrills. Believers in the car-free lifestyle are often opponents of urban sprawl -- more freeways, wider avenues, bigger parking lots. To compensate for the struggle and bad news associated with more sprawl and worsening traffic, car-free folk happily get daily exercise walking and biking. And, not having to support a car leads to greater financial freedom: on average, Californians spend around $13,000 per registered vehicle annually. If that doesn't bother you, realize that a pedestrian actually goes just as fast as any motorist. How is that? Do the arithmetic: if all the hours to earn the money to buy the car, to pay for repairs and the insurance and fuel, and the time sitting in traffic and finding the car in some huge parking lot, and all other time-consuming car activities are considered, and the total hours are divided into the annual miles driven, the average North American is proven to be going only five miles per hour. Depaving is another important pastime. People with pickup trucks are welcome to participate, by bringing sledge hammers, picks and shovels, and hauling away rubble. For my driveway, we made attractive landscaping walls with the concrete pieces. It's great to free the soil to grow flowers, vegetables and trees--it cools the atmosphere and empowers a human being in this megacorporate-dominated world. Grow some food by liberating the land. Why rely on Safeway, et al, who in turn depend on diesel fueled trucks? Car-free activists were delighted with the WTO protest in Seattle last fall, as streets were taken over by people for a change. The next time these people take over the streets, they might have a depaving party a la "Reclaim the Streets," of British contemporary lore. Car-free Americans may actually be more concerned about oil than the typical TV-watching commuter. This is because most of them know how precarious is today's petroleum-intensive agriculture, as it floats this nation's overpopulation beyond the capacity the land could otherwise carry. The U.S. will run out of oil by around 2020, and the world soon after. Wars over oil are therefore always around the corner. Perhaps having a new gas-guzzling SUV should not be so prestigious, as few of them venture out in the wild anyway, where they just tear up the ground and pollute. The death toll on U.S. roads is near 43,000 people every year. The Columbine High School massacre body count is dwarfed by the loss of life occurring every week as we drive in this country. Fumes from our vehicles' exhaust kill another 50,000 annually, especially the elderly and children. Heart attacks claim even more people's lives every year due to the excessive sedentary factor implicated in driving. One million animals die on U.S. roads every day. Global warming's single biggest factor is the U.S. automobile population's emissions. Obviously, there is more to be worried about than "high" gas prices (at half of the rest of the world's level) in our car-dependent, paved culture. Instead of dealing with this issue head on, "solutions" range from building more roads to "alleviate" traffic congestion, to building non-oil burning vehicles. Unfortunately, the environmental movement is largely funded not to take direct action, but to instead push for technofixes. People assume there are replacement fuels and technologies for oil, but consider, for example, how cheaply it flowed until massively subsidized after the 1970s, and oil is our asphalt and tires as well as fuels. This is one reason fundamental lifestyle change and land-use are the real key. Sadly, there is no operating fund for depaving which addresses the cause of these problems. For ways to get involved in projects to reduce petroleum dependence, such as Pedal Power Produce and the new Sail Transport Network, and to get a copy of the Auto-Free Times magazine, visit the web site of the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium: http://www.lesscars.org. Let us rise above oil, cars and pavement starting now. The writer is president of Fossil Fuels Policy Action in Arcata, California, and he formerly published the Lundberg Letter on oil industry trends.