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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Judging Hydrocarbon-Americans

I live a block from an urban lake on which “personal water craft” are a regular feature; during the summer, it can be like living within earshot of a motocross arena, the growl and scream of two-stroke engines our constant soundtrack.

I’ve never ridden a Jet-Ski or a Ski-Doo but I can understand the appeal. I like machines; I like speed; I have some residual childhood nostalgia for the perfume of old time bus exhaust, that good sweet, high sulfur, black cloud—a touch of which is the magic ingredient in street food, from New York pretzels to roadside Mexican tacos.

Never dune buggy’ed across the sand or ATV’ed through the woods, and those things seem a little more odd to me somehow, but the basic formula is the same:

Hydrocarbs + Speed = Adrenalin

Of course lots of things make you temporarily feel good—and I'll succumb to PC timidity here and specify no particular act or substance—but, both individually and collectively, we recognize that some of them should be avoided anyway. The downside cost, sometimes to ourselves, often to others as well, is too high.

So, never mind the fact that I may be aging into a Hey-You-Kids-Get-Off-My-Lawn! attitude toward my neighborhood and my neighbors, why isn't there more reaction against forms of recreation that are primarily centered around the burning of hydrocarbons?

Lots of reasons, I suppose.

But it seems to me that one of them is the successful perversion of (or perhaps a basic flaw in) the modern tendency toward (ostensible) relativism: you don't judge me, I don't judge you.

I have yet to see people sporting t-shirts or baseball caps identifying themselves as Hydrocarbon-Americans, but it's just a matter of time. Burning fuel is a necessary evil for some; for others, it's on the continuum between fun (which I get) and a fundamental right (with which I take issue).

Yup, here comes the Nanny State and the dour judgmental Greenie.

Context matters.

If it's 1900 and you want to go out on the arctic tundra with a backpack full of high explosives and spend your weekend blowing holes in the ground, well that's an odd form of recreation but, “to each. . .”

In 2009, it's not too much of a stretch to think of the population of the world as living on a shrinking ice sheet. If your idea of a fun weekend is setting off explosions that cause the space we're all living on to shrink, as pieces calve off and either sink or float away. . . It's not Luddite prissiness to say this is no longer just private business, or a values-neutral argument about “lifestyle,” in which the Green Killjoys are trying to bring down the Speedy Exuberants and who's to say what's really right or wrong?

Yes, I am judging the lifestyle and life choices of the Hydrocarbon-American tribe.

Hey-you-kids stop making a racket out on the water! Wanna burn something on the lake? Get a rowboat, a canoe, or a kayak, and burn some calories!

Am I gonna tell your parents?

No, I'm listening to your children: they're gettin' pissed at you for shrinking their ice sheet.


Anonymous said...

I grew up w/ an energy conscientious father, the same as the author. Yes, the self-proclaimed hydrocarbonaholic is my brother and so am I.

Consequently, I cringe at the sound of motor vehicles of all types. My home is strategically located on a quiet street surrounded by large trees, whenever possible, I avoid motorized machinery of all types, and I crave the peace that only nature can bring. I can't imagine the thrill of burning fuel for fun. The smells nauseate me and the sound makes my heart race and my palms sweat. I feel an utter sense of disgust throughout my entire body, while my spirit feels crushed. What pleasure could anybody derive from using motorized vehicles to tear through natural habitats destroying their peaceful beauty; disrupting the vegetation, the animal life and the people that come to enjoy both? How far must I have to travel to avoid these human predators of nature?

I used to take adjudicated youth on wilderness expeditions as an alternative therapeutic form of rehabilitation. We paddled through swamps and rivers, hiked mountains and avoided all traditional forms of civilization for 28 days at a time. They complained. I miss sleeping in a real bed! I need my soda and a burger! I missed the quiet of the wild life while enduring their incessant complaining, but reasoned that it was all worth providing them with this unique exposure.

Where I live, we have many lakes in my environmentally friendly community but I could never bare to visit them only to listen to the motor boats and jet skiers racing around the water. When vacationing at the coast last summer, we had to endure the four wheel vehicles racing across the beach where my children wanted to build their sand castles. When I went out to enjoy a peaceful swim in the ocean, I had to be careful that the motor boats and jet skiers didn't lop my head off, but they surely left the water with a disgusting oily feel and taste.

I believe that we DO have the right to demand environmentally sound practices in a variety of natural habitats. I believe that now is the time to spread awareness and vamp up the pressure. It is time to reclaim the earth and put a halt to the trespassers.

Kyaroru said...

Well said!