At O-Dark-Thirty this morning, the government of the United States melted down worse than a two year old after a sugar-enriched Barney marathon. Despite this colossal cluster event, the rest of the world is still doing their thing. The French woke up early and still made tasty bread, for instance.

I am tired of watching America trip over its own idiots. Last night I started to watch season two of The Walking Dead (don’t judge me, I take care of a two year old pretty much non-stop and need to unwind). In the episode I watched last night, the tough guy, Shane, gives the leader, Rick, constant grief about making the hard decisions. What I realized while watching this was that Shane is right, but for all the wrong reasons. Rick is trying to find a lost girl who is wandering around in a woods packed with zombies and rattle snakes. Shane, with no real goal in mind other than to manipulate the power in his life, is constantly dragging ass. He doesn’t want to find the girl for some reason.

Ok: so Rick actually listens to this clown. Maybe it’s friendship or fatigue, but he fails to make the group stronger when he fails to address the issues Shane brings to their party.

We make the same mistake when we fail to address the same kind of issues in our society. Folks, there are dumb questions. You’re not maintaining some superior impartiality or higher moral ground when you tolerate stupidity. Cut the dead weight and move on!

And there are places we can improve. I’ve been reading about how in recent years the US has reduced its green house gas emissions. Let me be clear, this is great news! However, it starts to look like we may be prematurely patting ourselves on the back when you look at the details.

U.S. emissions decreased by 1.6 percent from 2010 to 2011. Recent trends can be attributed to multiple factors including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficiency in vehicles with reductions in miles traveled, and year-to-year changes in the prevailing weather.

The French make incremental improvements to their bread too, and this is a good thing when considered against the big picture the IPCC just told us about. But there is room for soooooooooooooo much more improvement here, don’t you agree?

My personal short list for reducing carbon emissions has always looked like this:

  • Reduce transportation emissions as much as you can.
  • Find and use as many energy efficient utilities as you can afford, if you can’t afford them don’t use them.
  • Make up as much of your power requirements deficit as you can given your situation.

This short list has worked for me and my family for a while. If I don’t need to drive, I don’t.  It’s healthier for me to walk or ride my bike wherever I can.  It’s also much safer and considerably more accessible when there is well designed and maintained bike infrastructure in place.

And just as the French have the US beat hands down in the bread department, the Dutch are crushing us with the bike goodness. This is despite that country’s colder than average temperatures (heating is a major cause of GHG emissions).

Carbon dioxide emissions (CO^2), metric tons of CO^2 per capita (CDIAC)

Country 1998 2001 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
United States 19.4 19.5 19.4 19.2 19.3 19.3 18.8 19.3 18.5 17.2
Netderlands 11.3 11.6 10.4 10.9 10.9 10.6 10.1 10.5 10.5 10.2

The dutch have made transportation efficiency, and not the sort of nod and a wink kind we like to talk about here in the US, a priority for a very long time. And because of this generational investment they have some of the most beautiful, reliable infra as well.

Hovenring near the city of Eindhoven, The Netherlands

MAP-21, another GOP compromised policy shank in the side of America, made sure that transportation efficiency stayed only at the barely tolerable level. It only works if you drive a big rig long distance or don’t mind a two hour commute into the office in the morning. Every day we miss out on opportunities like Hovenring, but even more so, just on providing the basics because we lack imagination and are bent on tolerating stupidity. A contemporary, workable transportation network we make for ourselves. Everywhere in the Netherlands you can own and drive a car, but nowhere in that country is your life in constant danger if you don’t.

Today I got out my velomobile in an effort to get it ready for the winter.  It needs some work for sure, but I’ve been pulling Aral around on the fat-bike otherwise. Seeing such engineered beauty just makes me jealous. It should make you jealous too. If you feel even the slightest complacence, the result of some mythical exceptionalism, you’re your own worst enemy. Understandably, you’re a problem in my life as well.

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