A Modest Proposal

In 1729, Jonathan Swift brought attention to the plight of Ireland’s starving poor by ironically suggesting the children be fattened and served up to the rich.

My modest proposal today employs no irony. Rather, I address a serious issue by suggesting a small, effortless, non-resource-consuming, incremental change.

The serious issue: Carbon emissions. The suggestion: Cut your engines when idling unless at a stop light or in stop-and-go traffic.

It was Friday, December 2, 2011. Jane and I were standing alongside the bellman just outside the main entrance to Tokyo’s Shinjuku Hilton. We were waiting for our host and Japanese partner, Nori Furuya, to fetch us and be off for our day of meetings. An immense, airport-bound bus with rear-view windows the size of parking lots pulled up. Then something happened I had never before witnessed, nor ever expected: The driver cut Shinto gatehis engines. Silence. No fumes. We were struck by his apparent courtesy.

Later, riding Tokyo’s maze to Nori’s office, I shared this epiphany with our host and asked if it were commonplace. He said, “Oh, yes. It is core to the Shinto world view. We hold great respect for the earth. To leave one’s fossil-fueled engine idling unnecessarily and spewing fumes onto Mother Earth is like relieving your bladder on your mother’s living room carpet. It is disrespectful.”

Ever since that time, I have cut my engines when stopped and not in traffic. When I swing around to the portico of our office building at 5 o’clock this afternoon to pick up Jane, if she is not standing there, I will come to a stop and cut my engine. Last week, waiting for her to return from Providence, R.I., and parked in the cell phone lot at Charlotte’s airport, I read from my iPad with the engine off. I uncomfortably noticed that over half the other cars in the cell phone lot were parked and idling, unnecessarily contaminating Mother Earth. I felt an urge to circulate and knock on windows, suggesting they show respect and cut their engines. It was a mild evening—no need for air conditioning of any kind. This morning, wondering what I would blog about this week, I parked in the rear of our office building and made my way to work. I passed a car that was idling, its driver primping in the mirror in preparation for her encounter with society, her tailpipe pumping trash while she applied her mask. Again, I wanted to knock on her window and request she attend to her tailpipe emissions. And, again, I resisted being the Mother Earth emissionspolice.

But, I had my blog topic! Please join me in this sign of respect and cut your engines when not in traffic and stopped. Give Mother Earth this gift for the holidays, and for her lifetime, which is in danger of foreshortening lest we do our part.

For my Big Five friends:

  • If you’re feeling more N+, do it because your conscience tells you to.
  • If you’re feeling more N-, do it because logic entails it.
  • If you’re feeling more E+, do it because you want to set a good example.
  • If you’re feeling more E-, do it because you love the quiet and pure air.
  • If you’re feeling more O+, do it because you are intrigued by the idea and the broad global impact.
  • If you’re feeling more O-, do it because you want to preserve what has been entrusted to you.
  • If you’re feeling more A+, do it because I told you to.
  • If you’re feeling more A-, do it because you want to be better at reducing your carbon footprint than the rest of us.
  • If you’re feeling more C+, do it because it will move us towards a more perfect universe.
  • If you’re feeling more C-, do it spontaneously.

But howsoever you are feeling, do it. Cut your engine. And have a rejuvenative holiday!

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  1. December 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks for your smog blog. I’ll do.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and Jane.
    Cheers

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