It’s More Important To Recognize What Direction People Are Moving Than Where They Are

I recently read a post on social media that went something like this (paraphrased):

“If you buy an EV, you’re part of the problem. You’re advancing car culture and are actively hurting the planet. The only ethical thing to do is ditch your cars and put all your effort into supporting transit. Anything else is worthless.”

There is some truth there; supporting transit in areas it makes sense is better than having more cars, even EVs. But of course the key here is in areas it makes sense.

My road isn’t even paved. I live miles from the nearest town. And get into the remote regions of the western USA and you’ll find people that live 40 miles from the nearest neighbor. There’s no realistic way that mass transit is ever going to be a thing in these areas. And even if it were somehow usable, sending buses over miles where nobody lives just to reach the few that are there will be worse than private EVs. And because I can hear this argument coming a mile away, no, it doesn’t make sense to tell these people to just not live in the country because the planet won’t support that anymore, because those people are literally the ones that feed the ones that live in the cities.

The funny thing is: the person that wrote that shares my concerns and my goals. We both care deeply about climate change. We both want positive change. And I, ahem, recently bought an EV.

I have seen this play out in so many ways over the last few years. Drive a car? Get yelled at. Support the wrong politician? Get a shunning. Not speak up loudly enough about the right politician? That’s a yellin’ too.

The problem is, this doesn’t make friends. In fact, it hurts the cause. It doesn’t recognize this truth:

It is more important to recognize what direction people are moving than where they are.

I support trains and transit. I’ve donated money and written letters to politicians. But, realistically, there will never be transit here. People in my county are unable to move all the way to transit. But what can we do? Plenty. We bought an EV. I’ve been writing letters to the board of our local electrical co-op advocating for relaxation of rules around residential solar installations, and am planning one myself. It may well be that our solar-powered transportation winds up having a lower carbon footprint than the poster’s transit use.

Pick your favorite cause. Whatever it is, consider your strategy: What do you do with someone that is very far away from you, but has taken the first step to move an inch in your direction? Do you yell at them for not being there instantly? Or do you celebrate that they have changed and are moving?

20 thoughts on “It’s More Important To Recognize What Direction People Are Moving Than Where They Are

  1. Yes, agreed. Let’s start with big agglomerations, where the cars are even contra-productive, taking up space and making cities less livable.

    But let’s statrt already!

  2. We have a saying for what you do here: “Ausred verloss mi ned” — Excuse, please dont go away!

    IMO, the social media post you paraphrased is spot on correct.
    Car owners that are looking for excuses like you do, are part of the problem.

    In fact, the USA, as you started to hint at, is part of the problem.

    If you are living at a place which is hard to reach, the solution is to move, not to buy a car or pretend that public transport will never work for you.

    1. I think the original post made the point that not everybody can move away from somewhere hard to reach. After all, someone has to live in the more remote places doing things like agriculture. Of course, you can expand public transport infrastructure to reach those places, too, but that becomes a question of economic priorities. Are people willing to subsidise a shuttle service for rural residents?

      And living in the middle of an urban environment with probably one of the highest rates of adoption of electric vehicles on the planet, I can tell you that there are plenty of people who would rather drive their Tesla around town (or use those awful electric scooters littered about the urban landscape) than take the bus, tram or train. If anyone should be encouraged to give up their car, it is those people, particularly as they merely exacerbate the congestion problem and, like those damned scooters, degrade the experience for residents.

      Those people also think they are being “green” when their consumerist lifestyles would probably strongly indicate otherwise. But such is their hypocrisy.

    2. “Pretend like public transport will never work for you?”

      I’d like to see how that would work for an area with a population density of 10 per square mile. Or, for that matter, 0.1 per square mile. It is likely to be completely unworkable and no better for the environment — if not significantly worse — than the opposite. Make a realistic proposal.

      As for the suggestion that everyone needs to just live in megacities… That is a suggestion for the death of billions of people, and the collapse of those very megacities, due to starvation.

      It also ignores the fact that huge amounts of clean power, especially from wind, come from rural areas.

      So you would solve the climate crisis by causing a global hunger crisis and eliminating most of the growth in clean power? Color me unconvinced.

      That post evinces a lack of inclusivity, discriminating heavily against rural residents, and failing to understand basic facts.

      I am fully on board that more emphasis on solid transit is needed. I am not on board with intolerance of people that live in areas where that isn’t viable.

  3. I really want to agree with what you wrote here. And WRT yourself and your decision to electrify, I do fully agree. I hope you have places to charge, but being who you are I think you researched that well :)

    In general, though, I have a problem with this argument. Namely, “moving” is inherently ambiguous. Which derivative is meant? If someone is still doing the wrong things, but less than before, should I applaud?

    Was it Nixon or Carter that tried to take credit for an inflation inflection point on their watch?

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