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?