and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
February 2003 #2

Take the test to find out if
you're being environmentally correct

  by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Monday, February 10, 2003

I like little cars.

My son fondly remembers the red VW convertible I drove in the '60s, with five or six neighborhood children piled in for the ride to the lake.

Our first Massachusetts car was a smallish Datsun pickup truck; you could fit a lot of kids and dogs in the back of that, too. Most of this "fitting" is illegal now.

In the years after helping to drive soccer teams, I switched to a compact Chevy, Nissan, Honda, and my present black '93 Civic.

I've been glad of the high mileage, and ease of parking, and most of all, the relatively cheap prices. But if I'd had money, I'd have bought an SUV for the hauling space, four-wheel drive and rugged good looks; the kids and dogs would have been safer tucked inside something solid too.

Fortunately I never had a serious accident, since I couldn't afford to be politically incorrect in a bigger car. I want my award for helping to save the planet, though.

Certain people, unfortunately, do not think in terms of awards; they want to punish what they perceive to be environmentally wrong. Some of them want to ban SUVs altogether, but mostly they want to just charge people more for choosing gas-guzzlers instead of gas-sippers.

Why stop there? What we need is a comprehensive check-off to determine who is green and who isn't, overall. Take the following test. Give yourself fair points for "yes" answers, deduct for the "no" answers, and see if you owe environmental taxes or get a tax rebate.

1.)  I drive an electric car and personally eat the batteries when they die.

2.)  I drive a hybrid car only, and family members take turns going to grandma's for holidays.

3.)  My family has only one car, and we work at home so we rarely drive it no matter how much gas it would use if we did.

4.)  Our kids walk to school, sports and the playground.

5.)  Actually, we don't have kids because it adds to the population and there are too many people on Mother Earth already (deduct 10 points for each child, unless adopted).

6.)  I have told my boss I'll wear only jeans and work clothes that need infrequent laundering because dry cleaning is bad for the environment. I turn my socks inside out so I can wear them two days before they go in the wash. I have a clothesline in my yard and basement (if no basement, in the living room) and never use a dryer.

7.)  I have a small house (add a point for each degree under 70 you kept the thermostat last month. When summer finally returns, subtract more for using an air conditioner rather than an electric fan, but add points if you just wave a folded piece of paper in front of your face. Also subtract 100 points for each room besides a living room -- maximum size 18-by-16 feet, eat-in kitchen, family bedrooms and one bath.

8.)  We do not have a TV or CD player and listen to the radio only during national emergencies. My family has a piano, a (non-electric) guitar or sitar to make music, and board games for providing entertainment. (Extra points: Early to bed and early to rise, instead of wasting electricity on lights; reading by candlelight; and keeping a fire extinguisher in each reading room).

9.)  We buy grains in bulk, do not eat meat from animals that take up too much land to graze, recycle almost everything and bury our trash in the back yard like the colonists did. We eat only enough to keep ourselves healthy so as to not overburden the septic system.

10.)  We do not use a cellphone except to call for a ride in a rainstorm when serial rapists are in the area. Never mind if this helps the environment; I'm giving extra points anyhow.

And speaking of points, this is the big one: Some of us drive SUV's but are otherwise environmentally friendly; those who do better than we on the overall scale can complain about our car, but the others should mind their own business.

My son the environmentalist bought an SUV to haul his wife, the twins, a friend or relative, two dogs and camping-for-all equipment. I can't imagine that it would be cheaper to take two cars instead of one on a trip, which is what they'd have to do if they drove a smaller vehicle.

My priorities at the moment are clear: Safety for my grandchildren. If I had money I'd buy them a tank, even if it got only one mile to a gallon; or more practically, I'd buy them and myself the new Volvo, non-tip SUV.

Naturally I would first ask myself: "What would Jesus drive?"

But there is no easy answer. Are He and all 12 apostles car-pooling to the Sermon on the Mount, or is He driving alone into Jerusalem at peak rush hour?

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. When it comes to an automobile, the government can't make the decision for Jesus, or for me.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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