The zero-sum future - Page 3

We can switch from cars to bikes, now. Or we can leave our kids a climate-change disaster

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GETTY IMAGES/JUSTIN SULLIVAN


THE POLITICS OF NEO-LIBERALS

The biggest challenge, though — and the heart of Henderson's book — is political. Transportation, he argues, is inherently ideological: "It matters how you get from here to there." And he notes that progressives, who are willing to think about social responsibility, not just individual rights, see the choices very differently than the neo-liberals, who in this city are often called "moderates." If the neo-libs have their way, he says, the changes will be too little, too late, and mostly ineffective.

Because Americans are facing a series of choices — and there are no solutions that preserve the old way of life without sacrificing the future of the planet. It's entirely a zero-sum game: We can slow global climate change, or we can keep driving cars. (Oh, and electric cars — which still require large amounts of power, mostly from fossil-fuel plants — aren't going to solve the problem any time soon.)

We can shift to bicycles and transit as our primary ways to get around, or we can leave our kids an ecological disaster of unprecedented scope. We can overhaul the entire way we think about urban planning — to make streets friendly to bikes and buses — or we can go down a deadly path of no return.

We can accept the fact that moving around cities may be a little slower, particularly while we adapt. Or we can join the climate-change deniers. "There are a lot of neo-liberals out there who say we can't start controlling automobility until we have a gold-plated transit system," Henderson told me. "But this is not a chicken and egg problem. First you have to create the urban space. Then you can build a better system."