According to the stereotype, if you’re passionate about topics environmental you’re supposed to always root for the jackass in a donkey and elephant fight, favor complicated big government solutions to simple problems, and have a special place in your heart for the Jimmy Carter years. Well, I’m passionate about topics environmental. But, as relayed in a previous post where I confessed to my market oriented and politically right-of-center environmental policy beliefs, I’m no Jack Kennedy. So, in the interest of continued transparency, it’s time to clear the air again about an environmental topic that irks me: the sport utility vehicle (SUV). This time though, as opposed to the manifesto format of the previous post, I present you with a mock confessional. Enjoy.
Setting: Imagine an environmental confessional booth, if there was such a thing. I am sitting on a moss-covered stump in the middle of the woods. A thick wall of bamboo rises to my right. On the other side of this renewable environmental confessional booth and out of view sits Al Gore, environmental guru to the masses. Wearing a Lorax t-shirt and with a copy of his Earth in the Balance resting on his lap, he is ready to hear my sins. Birds chirp in the treetops, and in the distance, a wide brook babbles soothingly.
Me: Forgive me Al, for I have sinned against the environment.
AG: Did you you run a leaking oil tanker aground into a herd of endangered seals?
Me: What? Goodness, no. It’s not that serious.
AG: Did you leave the water running while brushing your teeth again?
Me: Well, yes, but it’s a little more serious than that.
AG: Did you leave a flaming paper bag of dog poo on George W. Bush’s front doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run? Because that would be okay with me, you know?
Me: Oh my, I see... someone’s still bitter about 2000... No, nothing like that. Well, um, it’s just that, um... I own a SUV
AG: Great Rachel Carson’s Ghost, this is serious!!! You claim to be a champion of environmental causes but you drive a SUV?
Me (meekly): But it has great fuel mileage for its class.
AG: (unintelligible Latin chanting, swaying back and forth, looking to the heavens)
Me: Okay, so I own a SUV. The reality is though, my family gets tremendous utility from our Honda Pilot. And, as we live in a walkable community, and I work in the same town as where I reside, we put very little mileage on the good old family truckster. We use it to pull the pop-up trailer to go camping in nature. We use the third row to pick up family and friends, eliminating the need for a two-car jaunt. Plus, we have a compact car for solo jaunts, or those that don’t require extra space.
AG: I see, go on.
Me: So, how is it that someone commuting 50 miles each way in a hybrid is an eco Good Samaritan, but I’m some kind of road hogging environmental Judas? Who has the bigger carbon footprint? Maybe we should evaluate each situation before we vilify SUVs with one broad stroke of the righteousness brush?
AG: You have a point. I’ve often wondered why minivans are okay, but a comparable SUV is not. Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. You will repent by placing an Obama 2012 bumper sticker on the back of your Pilot.
Me: Al, please, no way, don’t make me do that - anything but that. How about a Ron Paul sticker? After all, you know what they say, libertarians and liberals are a lot alike - it’s just that libertarians actually understand economics.
AG: (Al Gore stares to the treetops while rubbing his chin). Hmmm, that might work. Nader ruins it for me in 2000... maybe if Paul runs Libertarian he ruins it for Romney in 2012, hmmm...
Me: Whatever. Thanks to the electoral college, it’s not like my presidential vote in New Jersey means anything anyway. Can I go now?
AG: Sure, but can you give me a ride home in your SUV? - I left the pool heater on again. Those $30,000 yearly energy bills are killing me.
Me: Pool heater? Glad to see you practice what you preach about carbon emissions, Al. No, problem, jump in. We’ll pick up a pizza and some beer on the way.
With my conscience cleansed, I open the sunroof on the Pilot and drive off under the bright blue sky with Al Gore in the passenger seat. We stop by the local Pizza Fusion and pick up a low-carbon-footprint pizza and some organic beer. Hungry, we park at Walden Pond and tailgate from the back of the SUV. With no bottle opener handy, Al uses his Nobel Peace prize to pry open two beers. We clink bottles, grab a slice of pizza, and proceed to debate the path to environmental sustainability from two differing perspectives.