The path to happiness is a sidewalk

IBy Mark LaCroix

i love trees. Oh boy, I love trees. You can climb them, sit and read, write, woo ladies or play cards beneath them. You can build forts in them, follow cats up them, or just stare at them. Whatever you want. Just don’t chop them down unless you’ve got a damn good reason.

I’m not a tree-hugger per se, but when no one is looking, I’ve been known to sneak a quick wraparound on a bur oak, which for anyone who knows anything about oaks, is seriously the best oak there is. As I was saying, I believe in practical environmentalism, as opposed to the traditional and polarizing “Green Guilt” used by some modern environmentalists. An example of this kind of environmentalism would be, for instance, crying bloody murder at anyone who eats at McDonald’s, one of the top destroyers of the rainforest.

Whether or not you care to admit it, and even if you’ve never eaten at McDonald’s, you have been adversely impacting the world’s resources starting the second you were born. Of course, as a coconspirator in the murder of Earth, I have no right to point my finger at you or anyone else and shake it in a disapproving way. Unless you want to destroy the planet, you are not evil. Any filthy hippie who tells you otherwise may have his or her filthy hippie heart in the right place, but is sadly mistaken. Truthfully, saving the earth is boring, unglamorous and fruitless work. Just as well, there really isn’t much anyone can do to stop the wanton screwing of Mother Nature.

However, we can slow it down a bit. Little things matter. Recycle, especially if it isn’t any fun. Talk to politicians; tell them to weigh the long-term interests of the human race over the short-term interest in capital gains, etc.

But for goodness’ sake, drive your cars less, because you could fill the Mississippi River with polystyrene and still cause less damage than you do driving to work everyday, even if your car is Japanese.

For the first 16 years of my life, I lived within the confines of my neighborhood, as I’m sure most of my fellow suburbanites did. This type of life was difficult for a worldly youngster such as me. I had a bike, but a bike has no power, no confidence, no range. I longed for an existence beyond the local movie theater and Target store. So when the magical day came and I received my driver’s license, I did what I was supposed to do, what I most wanted to. What I was destined to do.

I drove.

Highways, driveways – always, I drove. In my car, I could be anywhere I could conceivably care to be in less than an hour, independent of the schedules or whims of others. It was as if I was a whole new entity. A two-legged caterpillar I was, a four-cylinder butterfly I became. I had the power. I even named my car, but then again, who didn’t? Then, the trouble began. In my junior year of high school, I enrolled in “The School of Environmental Studies,” or “the zoo school,” as it is commonly known. If you haven’t heard of it, SES is a high school with only 400 students who get to learn outside, climb trees and frolic without hall passes. These simple tweaks on the typical high school formula create an environment where everyone comes to school because they want to. Everyone would love it, even if they don’t like to hug trees.

After one full year of the rocket-propelled goodness my life had become, a sort of awareness set in. It had nothing to do with knowledge, for we all know how horrible and inherently evil the internal combustion engine is. The thing keeping us from awareness of our own knowledge is that little gnome behind our eyes pulling the curtains down.

While I was busy learning and having a fabulous time at zoo school, the “elf of responsible transportation practices” crept in through the side door of my head and murdered my “gnome of advantageous disregard for everything.” The problem was that I still lived in the suburbs, where every building is an island and no one knows how to swim. So instead of biking five miles to school and 15 miles to work, I just drove and felt guilty about it.

No more!

Fully integrated into a dense urban area with plentiful sidewalks, interesting things to look at and many buses, I have been liberated from my arcane mobile prison. Having been a motorist for three years is plenty.

It wasn’t just the guilt of killing trees, either. Toward the end, I began to really hate the actual act of driving. It made me anxious and irritable. I felt profane.

As soon as I got to campus, I couldn’t wait to go everywhere on my bike. On it, there would be nothing out of my environmentally-friendly reach. Of course, my bike pedal promptly fell off and became mangled beyond repair minutes into my maiden voyage. But still, very little could make me happier than to walk from the Rarig Center to the Gateway alumni center and back all day. The only thing I love as much as trees just might be my feet. To those of you out there who do ride your bike or walk everywhere – even if it’s only out of necessity – you rock. Take advantage of it, appreciate it. Be happy.

For those of you who cannot escape from motor city, go find my filthy hippie friend Ben. He’ll tell you all about it.