Wandering the local interwebs, I came upon another helpful thought over at Ensie. Nate, who I gather is a grad student at Cal Poly Pomona, recently participated in a class discussion about Aseembly Bill 32 (which, prior to this, I knew nothing about). See the Wikipedia entry or the actual text for more info. Nate noted that it seemed kind of difficult to have a discussion about whether the state of California should support the installation of more solar panels: It seems like kind of a no-brainer.
But on further reflection and reading Wendell Berry, Nate writes,
The solar power argued for in AB 32, and the other energy solutions discussed, narrowly define our current crises as energy and pollution woes. Solar power as Berry describes it encompasses a whole humankind shift in how we live. AB 32 does some good in internalizing into our narrowly defined economy (capital and investment money) some of the negative externalities of pollution and oil consumption. But what change in consumer consumption and responsibility for pollution will it actually drive when the green house gas accounting to be conducted by the Western Climate Iniative* begins only at the jurisdictional boundaries of the committed states?
I think what he’s trying to say is that in legislating change, it seems to be equally important how one frames the issue. In construing AB 32 as a narrow response to pollution, Nate – by way of Berry – argues that the larger questions about the sustainability of our consumption of natural resources remain unasked and unaswered. As to how that gets back to this issue of legislation: When we talk about legislation, what is the problem we’re talking about? Is it the present problems faced by people who ride bicycles? Or is it also the problems posed by economic, social, and cultural models that might be ultimately unsustainable?
I didn’t put that all that well, but I hope it comes across. Maybe this way: Is the root of problems between cyclists and drivers the fact that cyclists don’t have enough legal guarantees? In part, that’s probably true. But I wonder about the extent to which cyclists’ problems stem from a larger cultural assumption that bicycling is a juvenile or puerile act and that driving is the only properly mature way to get around. Worth a thought, I think.