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Teaching By Example

November 4th, 2009

I have a 5-year-old son.  He’ll be six in a couple of weeks.  Recently, he told me, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to make fast cars, but ones that don’t have exhaust pipes, so they don’t hurt the earth.” …Talk about a proud father moment… Now, I’d like to take credit for his coming up with this thought.  And, for the most part, I probably can.  I’ve spent the past 2 years focused on exactly what he’s talking about, a fact which has impacted his life as much as it has mine.  (On the other hand, he’s spent every day of his life – until recently – knowing that daddy has a race car in the garage, and that he tows it with an enormous pick-up truck.  …I’m glad he chose to focus on the positive.)  Plus, he does go to a school where being aware of the natural world is a big part of the curriculum.

But this got me thinking: there are currently over a quarter of a BILLION motor vehicles registered in the U.S. (and about a BILLION worldwide).  And if we keep the status quo, those numbers could double in the coming decades, with disastrous results for our environment, the climate, national security, the economy, and our standard of living.  Now, most in the auto industry have finally acknowledged that combustion exhaust is bad.  (And to the climate-change skeptics that remain, I ask, “My kindergartener gets it, so why can’t you?“)   And more and more folks are working on ways to transform transportation in a broader sense, and not just clean up our cars.  But we’re just getting started.  If things are going to change, it’s the kids of today who are really going to have to effect it.  If they grow up with the mindset that, “my parents drive a big SUV, so I will too one day,” then stagnation occurs.  On the other hand, if they are taught early on that the way things are isn’t the way things have to be, then change becomes all the more possible.

I can’t wait to see what our cars will look like 20 years from now.  And I can’t wait to find out if they’ll still be our primary mode of conveyance, or if we’ll just use them sparingly, for fun.  (I’d much prefer to take public transit during the week, and drive a Porsche on the weekends…)  But mostly, I can’t wait to see if my son might actually follow through on his fleeting yet poignant declaration.  ...And if the cars are fast, like he plans, then that WILL be a proud father moment indeed!

Toy Cars

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