The other day, the environmental blogosphere was atwitter (Treehugger’s reader forum and Ask the EcoGeek, for example) when a report in the Times suggested that, because of the environmental impact of growing the food that
fuels our bodies, walking is worse for the planet than driving.
When science can say a thing like that, and we take it seriously enough to discuss it, something is wrong. Like maybe we’ve thrown our God-given judgment out the window.
Science isn’t everything. For one thing, as we all know, it can be spun. That’s why it’s important to remember that the intellect is but one–and quite possibly the least–of the human qualities to be relied upon to guide our behavior. We can also depend on common sense, kindness, wisdom, compassion and intuition, which have the advantage of being tempered by the heart (and often reflect better on humanity, in my view).
As a kid, when my grandmother’s best friend Ginny Shannon caught me smoking and chucking my cigarette butts in the bushes, she told me that my body was mine to destroy but that the land was not. I kept smoking but stopped throwing the butts on the ground. There was a morality to what Ginny said that, even at 13 years old, I understood. I didn’t need a scientific study to see her point.
Similarly, no science is required for me to know that walking will always be better than driving, both for me and the planet. And honestly, whether the science proves there is such a thing as global warming or not (though in my book, the proof is incontrovertible), I don’t need a study to tell me that I should treat the planet better. I know, not because science told me so, but because Ginny Shannon did.