How did you get to work today? Did you drive your car? Were you the only person in it? Did you take the bus? If you live in a milder clime, did you bike?
At the 2008 Auto Expo in New Delhi Tata Motors, who may soon own the Jaguar brand, unveiled "The People's Car" in India. The Nano costs $2500 and promises about 50 mpg. This set off a frenzy of discussion on the designindia yahoo group about the ramifications for India. Now perhaps everyone will be able to afford a car, and will not dangle precariously from the sides of buses. No longer will women sit side-saddle behind their husbands on scooters, clutching a baby in the bargain. But what about the pollution? The traffic? There's no room on Indian streets for more bicycles, let alone cars...no matter how compact. There was lively talk about how mass transportation is the only option.
There really are no ready answers. Mira Kamdar, in her piece in the Washington Post mentions how she talked recently with an Indian college student. The student tells her that the industrialized world has enjoyed conveniences such as air conditioning and good transportation. Now it's time for developing nations to enjoy them too, and they're told "Sorry you can't, it's too late now". She quotes the student, "You won't reduce your consumption, and you tell us we can't increase ours." If you stop for a minute and put yourself in this girl's shoes, you really can see her point.
It seems like such an insurmountable task that it's tempting to just throw up one's hands and say an individual can't make a difference. But surely every little bit will help. I have the luxury of telecommuting every day. But perhaps if you ask your employer they may let you work from home one or two days a week. You could try to consolidate your errands. Instead of driving everywhere and then making time to go to the gym, perhaps you could walk or bike to the grocery store or the post office. It would be a start.
Since a picture is always worth a thousand words, I leave you with this visual to ponder. Be sure to click for a bigger view.