I always go on about how the current crisis in the habitat we depend upon for our health, happiness and security is full of opportunities for an improved way of life. What's good for the planet is often what is good for the people.
This principle is illustrated in the simple example of home care products. If the products, once they get washed down the drain, are non-toxic for the fish who end up swimming in them, then they are also safe for our kids who are exposed to them when when we use them in our homes.
Another example is the inevitable fact that we need to use the internal combustion engine--which burns fossil fuels to power our cars--much less often. This might sound like a hardship, and as our culture is currently structured, it might be.
But what if we structured our culture differently? What, for example, if we designed city life around the happiness of the people who live there instead of the ease moving cars around for those who don't? What if, in New York City, for example, we got rid of the 90% of air pollution that is caused by car exhaust and made the streets much better to live on?
Wouldn't that be an opportunity in the crisis? Wouldn't that be a case of happier planet, happier people?
Well thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT worker Dani Simons and a slew of her colleagues in the DOT and the New York Police Department, we got a glimpse this weekend of how it could look. Because together they turned the full length of Park Avenue below 72nd Street into one busy, well, park.
For three consecutive Saturday mornings (and potentially much more often if this test is a success), no cars or trucks will be allowed on Park Avenue. New Yorkers, in other words, get a glimpse of a world without cars. And it ain't half bad. Look at the pictures below and read this article in the New York Times.
One key fact: some businesses who worried that the lack of car traffic would make them lose money actually found that the thousands of pedestrians and bikers who turned out ended up making them more money.
Here is a picture of Park Avenue with cars (courtesy of BuddhaCab):
Now here's a Summer streets picture from Saturday (courtesy of the NYDOT and photographer Daniel Kukla):
We know fewer cars makes the planet happier. Doesn't this photo make it look like it makes the people happier, too?
Just in! Watch Clarence Eckerson's excellentStreetFilms video of Summer Streets:
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.