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Change, or else

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I never felt better about biking to work than immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Every time I bike, I save gas. This is a fact. Unfortunately, it's a tainted one.

Since I work at UNC, where parking is sparse, I must walk, bike or take the bus. I've gotten used to it. Biking four miles a day is often the only exercise I get. I enjoy taking the bus in the winter, when I welcome the solace of the 40-minute walk home.

During the summer, however, UNC students are gone and a side street between two frat houses opens up. Occasionally, I found myself stumbling out of bed, mumbling about being late for the bus or too tired to bike, and then convincing myself that parking will be available.

This summer, something changed. I met Chatham County artist Tim Bennett, who is making a documentary about peak oil, climate change and many other issues that analysts think are creating a perfect storm scenario. He scared me silly, and his stream of e-mails constantly ups the ante of concerned citizenship. Although I'm not completely convinced that a doomsday scenario for planet earth is inevitable, his outlook has backed up my own that there are implications for America's wild ride through the circus of consumerism.

Do students really need SUVs while living downtown each semester? Do most people need SUVs at all? Do we need to buy all the crap we buy and drive everywhere we drive? Generally speaking, must selfish desire overrule all other concerns in life?

It's time to listen to the universe because we're all guilty of waste in some way.

A simple example: My wife and I wanted to support a friend's performance three miles away. Considering Hurricane Katrina and parking, we wondered if we should drive or bike in the dark. Even though I'm the one with the bus schedule etched in my brain, my wife had to remind me about public transportation, which shows how flawed my view of reality is. Why did I need a natural disaster to realize busing is not reserved for commuting to work? After all, we chose to rent in Carrboro to avoid driving everywhere.

I have to remind myself that constantly questioning ourselves is healthy.

Two jets destroy the Twin Towers and America responds with patriotism. Meanwhile, the underlying reasons for terrorism are not taught in school or covered in the public sector outside PBS or weblogs.

A hurricane floods New Orleans, gas prices spiral out of control, and only now do our leaders preach oil conservation. Only now does talk of over-development in the bayou rise above the din of blathering talk-show hosts.

Political hucksters have never been visionaries, so why do we report on them as such? The seers have always been poets, artists and citizens who put the welfare of others above their own. Like prophets of old, they have been warning humanity that greed will never beat the universe.

When will we listen?

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