• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.


Bread crumb the fifth - On the highway, at the theater

Yes, I own a car. I also own a truck. Neither one is a hybrid, and both were built in North America.

August 5, 2010

Yes, I own a car. I also own a truck. Neither one is a hybrid, and both were built in North America.

I buy used vehicles, on the theory that it's a form of reuse. Reusing isn't as good as reducing, but it's still pretty good. Buying used is an affordable way of acquiring reliable transportation (if you're careful what you buy) -- reliable private transportation is a necessity when you live on a working farm and spend your weekdays at Greenback U -- there is no public transit where I live. And buying a used conventional car might well (I can't prove it) impose a smaller ecological burden than buying a new hybrid.

I don't buy hybrids because I can't afford them. A lot of faculty here can. A good number of students could, but seem to prefer imported sporty cars or luxury SUVs. But I'm staff. Relatively cheap, relatively reliable, relatively good gas mileage is the best I can do.

Anyway, I was driving my car west along the north bank of the St Lawrence River, and I happened to notice signs for the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, Ontario. The very fact that there exists a professional (Equity) theater festival in a little town on the edge of Thousand Islands cottage country got me thinking.

Professional theater (supported, no doubt, in part by government funds) is an investment in something that doesn't last. In an experience, rather than a physical object. And I was raised in the tacit belief that, on the basis of lifespan alone, objects are inherently better personal investments. It's just one of those beliefs that's been so basic I've never really considered that it might not be true. But maybe it's not. I'm told that as people age (even more than I have), what they remember most fondly -- their happiest memories -- are always of events, never of objects. Things they did and people they did them with, not stuff they owned. So if the value we receive from spending money is in the form of enjoyment and life enrichment (as opposed to growth in a financial portfolio), maybe buying pleasurable experiences is a better use of (limited) funds than buying stuff. And, if the experiences are delivered efficiently, their environmental impact might also be lower.

Now, would attending the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival be a pleasurable experience? That's a personal call. I suspect it's pleasurable for the actors involved, and the local residents, and a portion of the folks vacationing in the Thousand Islands. And I suspect that it's a net contributor to the economic and social sustainability of that region. So, on balance, it might be a good thing. Of course, it would be improved by a transit system which doesn't require people to drive private fossil-fueled vehicles to get there. Nothing's perfect.


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