CARSby Bill Denneen
Life started on this planet about 2 billion years ago. Homo sapiens about 2 million years ago, while humans came to California only 10,000 years ago. Europeans invaded this state about 300 years ago. Automobiles were invented about 100 years ago. Since WWII, cars have gone through an exponential increase in numbers and now dominate everything we do and think.
If you know people who lived on the Central Coast only 60 years ago, ask them what it was like — much different than today. I moved here 44 years ago, and it was so very nice, much better than crowded Boston where I had come from. I loved the open space, hills, cattle, and particularly the untouched coast. Since then we have converted open space, parks and oak woodland into roads and wider roads and parking lots, with ag land growing houses rather than food. Cars encourage urban sprawl, slurbanization. Nipomo had no stop lights as recently as 14 years ago.
Cars which supersaturate the Los Angeles Basin have made its air typically unfit to breathe. Cars make us weak, lazy and overweight. One out of six working Americans have their work related to cars and the rest depend on cars in order to get to work or school. Kids no longer walk or bike to school; they are driven or bused. Cars use a finite fossil fuel which is rapidly running out. We trash the environment for fuel, e.g. Nigeria, Avila, Guadalupe — and soon the Arctic Wilderness — to continue our addiction for a few more months. Our present administration was created and is controlled by oil corporations. Its main emphasis is finding new supplies of oil while doing nothing to curb demand or find an alternative.
Cars have become part of who we are. The reasons I wanted a car at 17 was to attract the opposite sex. Some free elder advice to young gals: go for the guy who rides a bicycle. He is physically fit and concerned about the future. Unfortunately we have become a car-addicted culture. The speedway just south of Nipomo has about 2000 car enthusiasts who drive there (of course) on Saturday night to watch cars smash-up while using a finite fossil fuel that is almost all gone.
The worst aspect of our vehicle addiction is that our tax dollars are being used to promote even more vehicle use. Each year over $50 million from the gas tax in California goes to the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Division of the State Park System for so-called “recreation.” We even have signs on our beach saying: pedestrians beware of vehicles. In biology this is called a “vicious cycle.” Let Senator Abel Maldonado know how you feel about this at 1302 Marsh St., SLO, CA. 93401. Legislation put in the OHV Division and legislation can take it out.
The day after Thanksgiving (Nov.26th) is one of the high vehicle use days on Oceano State Beach. Try to walk on OUR beach and listen to the waves. It is like walking on Hwy #101. Vehicle emissions are the leading cause of global warming.
I urge everyone to walk more, get a bike and use it, use our excellent bus system, for long trips take Amtrak — it is a neat way to travel. Mainly use your car LESS. Each time you get ready to hop in your handy polluter, ask yourself, “Is this trip necessary? Could I do five errands at once instead of just one? Could I carpool? Could I bicycle? Could I use my legs for what they were intended?”
The mouths of Arroyo Grande Creek and Santa Maria River are Critical Habitat for the endangered snowy plover, steelhead trout, tidewater gobe and least tern. The law requires that they be protected. Cars have taken over these Critical Habitats. Why do we permit this violation of the law?
My view is there should be no vehicles on the beach or dunes. My view is that vehicle use is not a type of “recreation.” My view is that our fine State Parks System should promote appreciation and interpretation of the natural world — not more car use. My view is that the beach is for kids, strollers, volleyball, horses, birding, snowy plovers, wave listening, joggers, least terns, and of course, lovers, but NOT vehicles. My view is that vehicles pollute, use a finite fossil fuel, make corporations (e.g. Unocal, Shell) rich and powerful. These corporations have taken over our government and caused us to go to war.
When I turned 70 I decided to see if I could live without a car. I was car-free for almost two years — it was an educational and exciting experience; I urge more people to experience this “different” lifestyle. Following this I used an electric truck for three years which was charged by photo-voltaics on my roof. Basically I have given up. I had high hopes of changing our way of life.We are out on a limb and crawling further out. I will keep fighting for the natural world and will go down riding my bicycle for at least 25% of my travel.
Sustainability, voluntary simplicity, use less, consume less, simple living are considered by many to be un-American. During the twilight days of the Golden Age of Man, I will enjoy my few remaining days to the hilt. The future is not mine . It has been great to have lived on the Central Coast but so sad to see it become supersaturated with cars like LA. The future is yours, certainly not mine. You can direct where our culture is headed. Participate.Bill Denneen is a healthy eco-elder, a firebrand, gardener, and an all-round figure of sustainability. He lives on a real ranch (with real animals and real veggies) in the midst of suburban sprawl. He can be reached at