People are suitably angry that the world is on fire, but not enough people understand what that means. Based on the rising number of deaths in the United States, it is unsurprising that so many are responding negatively to hearing, “No” for the first time in their lives when many felt entitled to do whatever they want whenever they want. It will likely come as a shock to many folks that most of the culture will actually have to change. Yes, there will have to be a lot less excess, and many sanctimonious, childless people with six-figure jobs owning heavy real estate portfolios cannot wait to scream at the working poor, single parents with multiple jobs to be vegan and recycle. I recommend ignoring those people, because they are often the same crowd that screams about building more housing to bring down costs–hey, how are they going to increase their real estate porfolios otherwise?–even though building destroys and limits arable land. That may be why a pathologically insatiable billionaire is buying farmland. However, the most important change is that people will need to switch to different forms of transportation, and we have to stop widening highways, reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips, and stop expecting to drive everywhere “because it just makes sense.” In short, since all of that expensive, luxury housing was marketed as “transit-oriented development,” people will need to start expecting to walk.
Why are speeds so high in some places and so low in others? In bigger states, we often lie to ourselves and say that people will do what they want, and there is no real speed limit. The truth is that based on segregation, suburbs were placed far away from “dangerous elements,” and highways were created to get people to work faster. The end. The infrastructure continues to develop and widen so that no “real American” has to look at anybody that threatens the lies of history. Once “real Americans” got tired of playing with the suburbs and neglecting the “dangerous elements” within the “scary city,” they rebranded everything with zoning classifications like “vertical mixed use” and “transit-oriented development.” To do this, the “real Americans” forced the “dangerous elements” out of the “new and improved smart city,” but still expected those “dangerous elements” to get to work and serve them on time. Higher speeds merely perpetuates the lies of history, which is why grown-ups now understand that widening highways just means that more people will drive on them. Therefore, lowering speeds throughout cities means that people in the United States understand that they are not entitled to banish those that threaten their comfort zones.
We also need to stop building as though everyone can drive from the middle of nowhere to the middle of somewhere. “But what about farms and reservations???” You will not win an argument with a Black womxn by forgetting that reservations are racist, neglected infrastructure to hide lies about who has rights to land stewardship; maybe stop hoarding electricity, the internet, and running water from reservations, include colonias in your understanding, and then we could start a conversation–that you would still lose. As for farms, people have been saying for decades that lawns are extravagant wastes, and everyone already knows that golf is obsolete. The only reason we have those two outdated concepts is because the pathologically insatiable enjoy them. Big farms are about control and cost manipulation; we could all grow food on less land, and then would be able to feed ourselves regardless of a sale. “But what about multifamily complexes??” Most of them use automatic sprinklers, and could be watering food instead of grass. All of the arguments about building are really arguments about hoarding, and those who hoard will have to stop thinking that they are entitled to control all the property everywhere.
Finally, everyone can use a sidewalk, regardless of disability. People will often make excuses not to have transit routes that could allow cleaning service workers to own cars, but it is inarguable that everyone can use a sidewalk. Why is sidewalk not everywhere? We as a nation have unfortunately decided that we should not even have to look at anyone who challenges our worldview, so we make sure that any visibility infrastructure is limited to places where “real Americans” live. To add insult to injury, we also like to mock those without safe sidewalks for being fat, which is sure to make people feel excessively comfortable being in public. To combat climate change, people need to acknowledge that sidewalks should simply be baseline infrastructure–like sewage and electricity–and stop charging so much for them. Anyone who wants to unhelpfully shriek about the “free market” needs to consider the fact that the pandemic has exposed all lies, including that one; indentured servitude for most with unlimited resources for “few” is, by definition, not a “free market.”
Walking is how many of us got around before riding bikes or driving. It generally relaxes people, and with a mental health crisis, we could use some relaxation. We could all be doing a lot better if we stopped forcing ourselves to maintain an outdated paradigm of commuting, and allowed ourselves a culture that allowed us to walk more places to get more done. After all, I thought that was why everyone got a dog in the first place.