Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's the Economy Stupid

The entire Seattle region is gridlocked, and despite having a newly elected bike friendly mayor there still hasn’t been a serious, or even a non-serious, discussion about making the city more accessible and safer for cyclists. It’s taken me a while to understand the reason, but I’ve finally realized that it can be summed up in three letters: GDP.

Everyone seems to be talking about the economy lately; what they are really talking about is the Gross Domestic Product – the total of all goods and services produced in the U.S, and let’s face it cars are good for the economy and bikes aren’t. Bikes reduce pollution- bad for the economy (nothing to clean up). Bikes promote good health – bad for the economy (no more oxygen tanks for emphysema sufferers to lug around). Riding a bike makes you happier – bad for the economy (the U.S. leads the world in antidepressant drugs). Riding a bike doesn’t burn fossil fuels – bad for the economy (no more massive profits for oil companies). Riding a bike doesn’t require massive road building projects – bad for the economy ( no more Senatorial pet building projects). People in the know know that cars contribute to the economy whereas bikers, well they’re just freeloaders.

We assume that a roaring economy is a good thing, but why do we assume that? Robert. Kennedy put down some very insightful words on the matter:

Our gross national product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods, and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm, nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

Study after study show that once folks rise above abject poverty wealth and happiness have no correlation. Money can’t buy happiness, but a lack of it sure can buy misery. I wish that I was living the monastic life, free of material wants, but it would only take a minute for me to lay out exactly what two new bikes I need and what new camera will be the “last camera I ever own.” At least I’m starting to realize that the satisfaction is more in the acquisition than in the possession.

When we talk of the economy it’s worthwhile to realize that it’s much better to be overweight, depressed, divorced and behind the wheel of a Hummer than it is to raise a garden, get another year out of your car and only purchase that which you can afford.

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