We don’t use carbon-producing transportation during the No Impact project, so we have to find ways to make a little bit of summer vacation right here in New York City. Today, we went with Isabella, my two-year-old daughter, and played in the Washington Square fountain.
“That was so funny, daddy,” by which she meant that was so much fun. And it was fun for us, too. A couple of friends happened to be walking by and they stopped and chatted and we all laughed and cooled by the spouting water.
Meanwhile, tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of New Yorkers climbed in their cars this weekend to get to the Hamptons or have flown further afield to find other water to play in. Who can blame them? In our emphasis on having a robust economy, we have turned New York City into a cesspool.
Cars crowd our streets making them too noisy, dangerous and filled with exhaust fumes for families to hang out. Raw sewage and chemicals surging into our rivers make them too filthy to swim. Plowing under air-cooling green spaces—to construct more buildings—makes the whole place too hot.
And we do all of those things, supposedly, for the sake of financial efficiency. The city infrastructure is designed so we can all work a little harder and put a little more money in our pockets, which we then have to spend to get away from--you guessed it--the efficient yet unpleasant city infrastructure.
What if we were to emphasize making the place wonderful to live in instead? What if we made New York (and the other cities) the kind of place that we all didn’t feel we needed to get away from? What if we turned the whole city into one massive vacation?
We would just need to make the streets safe to walk, play, hang out, ride bikes and breathe in; clean up the rivers so we could windsurf and swim; grow more trees and less buildings to give us shade and cool air; and build a few more parks and fountains to splash around in.
Imagine a place like that. Not only would that save the hundreds of thousands of cars and airplanes leaving the city and pumping clouds of CO2 into the atmosphere, but it would make where we live a much nicer place. We could use global warming as a reason, not to deprive ourselves of things we want, but to figure out how to live better. That is one of the opportunities I see in our crisis.
Photo of Washington Square Fountain courtesy of TrevorLittle.com
PS If you would like to read more about making http://www.transalt.org the streets of New York better for people, look at the website of Transportation Alternatives.