So I am just back from Europe. A two week vacation got cut short when, at a fine Belgium Restaurant, a waiter dropped a croissant on my knee, shattering my meniscus cartilage. Actually, I tripped on a cobble stone curb. Why can’t they just pave their streets flat with cheap asphalt like we do here?
As women know, beauty takes effort. During my week long trip to Belgium I didn’t see any garbage, any homeless people, and the highways were beautiful stretches of road unpolluted by unsightly billboards. Okay, gas was twice the price but I’ll get back to that later. Everything was modern, even in a medieval city like Brugge. I remember traveling to Europe in the late seventies and having to make sure that I had toilet paper in my pocket should the need to use some occur. No more. Now Europe’s urban areas are more modern, cleaner, and human friendly than our cities, not to mention more beautiful.
How do they do it? As I flew out of Brussels I peered down and saw a nuclear power plant. I then thought about the fact that Denmark has become 100% energy independent (see http://www.neatorama.com/2008/01/01/energy-independence-how-denmark-kicked-the-foreign-oil-habit/). They taxed gasoline and automobiles starting in the mid-seventies and used that money to modernize their energy companies and to make their businesses and homes more energy efficient.
What did we do? We gutted the clean air act, put into place by that king of liberals: Richard Nixon. The clean air act was put in place so that when power plants modernized, they had to meet certain standards. That coupled with a lack of energy legislation ensures less efficient production of electricity. It also ensures a greater reliance on coal.
I don’t mind spending a little more for food if it’s better food. I don’t mind paying more taxes if they go to the right programs. When are we going to wake up and spend more money on our quality of life and less money on oil subsidies? When will we realize that we cannot depend on the combustion engine the way we have for the past 100 years? When will we cease rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan and start rebuilding the US?
The time may come when I visit China again and find that their cities are more modern than ours. They are on their way. Unfortunately so are we. I hope the cheap gas was worth it.