Backstage in Montclair, New Jersey. Stephanie White is rehearsing with Robbie LaFalce in the other room—what a voice.I took the train this afternoon: the J out of Brooklyn, then the F up to 34th Street, walked one block west to Penn Station, then hopped on NJ Transit’s Montclair-Boonton Line. From Walnut Street station it was a little less than a mile to the Unitarian church here, past lawns and rows of trees in bloom, through the wide-sidewalked downtown, my suitcase wheels playing a drumbeat across the tiled brick. It’s probably all the glimpse I’ll get of Montclair this time around, but it’s a glimpse at a good pace, one that allows for noticing details, watching scenes unfold. I like East Coast transit systems for this reason: the reminder of how constraint begets new possibility. You inhabit the world differently when you can’t move around in a bubble.My choice of transportation today was a practical decision; getting out of New York by car on a warm Friday afternoon is madness (we once sat in five hours of traffic to get to Newark for India.Arie). But this plan only worked because Outpost in the Burbs had a piano waiting for me, it was a solo show, and I had a ride back home if I missed the last train. When Alex and I rode the subway to Central Park for the Green Apple Festival, lugging his percussion gear up and down endless flights of stairs and across several blocks on the Upper East Side, that was…well, a symbolic gesture. It just seemed wrong to take a car service to an Earth Day event, that’s all.So what’s a real long-term solution? We’re not going to make a habit of taking public transportation to duo or band performances; it simply isn’t practical (or even possible, if I have my keyboard). Doing the right thing when it’s massively less convenient will only go so far. There’s only a certain segment of the population willing to make that kind of trade-off on a regular basis, and eco-conscious behavīor needs to be society’s default for it to be effective on the required scale.It seems like a lot of this does come down to advocacy and policy, in the end: higher fuel efficiency standards, better funding for public transportation in all cities, recycling programs that accept compostables and a wide range of plastics, and so on. Meanwhile, I keep adding items to my personal list of “stuff that isn’t hard to do, so I might as well.” Though you’d be surprised how much you have to fight sometimes to deploy a
reusable shopping bag.Here are two links to studies I’ve discovered recently—one heartening, one disheartening (at least for me, lover of BBQ and a good cheeseburger):Nudge, by economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein: “Thoughtful ‘choice architecture’ can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice”The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2006 Report: “Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars”
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