Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A New City

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.

Revelations 21: 1

As I walked to work this morning, I had a vision. A vision of a new city. A different city.

As I walked to work and the cars growled, belched and swore their way past me, I envisioned a city with no cars – where the cars, trucks, motorcycles and even lawnmowers were all simply gone.

My initial thought was how sweet it would be to be rid of the ever-encroaching noise. Can you imagine?! I would expect the silence would be deafening, at least initially.

Where I usually heard a gritty hum along with roars, honks, skids and booming radios, there would be a blessed peace. A distinct absence of volume.

And then, as I acclimated to the new silence, I would begin to hear again all those sounds that had been subverted – the birdsongs, the wind through the trees, children playing in the distance, laughter. Down on busy, busy Main Street, I might even be able to once again hear the Ohio rolling towards the ocean!

You know, it could happen. Our oil supply is reaching its peak, and will soon spiral away to nothing.

Probably today's children, and almost certainly the next generation will live to see the end of affordable gasoline. The question is: What will we do then?

There are some who'd see the end of the gas-powered auto as a sign of the impending end of the world. Mass chaos and hysteria. The total collapse of society.

But that need not be.

As I thought about my quiet, car-free city more, I rejoiced in all the other changes that would come.

I envisioned people moving within two miles of where they work, play and worship. I saw lives designed around homes and not around autos. I saw the revival of neighborhood stores. I saw tons and tons less pavement (big cities tend to be from 25 – 50% paved).

Concrete and tar were replaced by greenery and new homes.

In a charming bit of irony, suburban folk agonized about wanting to stay in their distant enclaves but realized that they just couldn't afford to and sadly they watched the suburbs being torn down to make way for farms! The new farmland that emerged had to rely upon sustainable farming methods – not petro-fertilizers.

In yet another irony, the wealthy moved back to the cities and all those McMansions in which they'd invested so much were sold for a pittance to those less well off.

Some businesses were hurt and some disappeared altogether. The gas stations in my vision were gone, but they were replaced by locally-owned bakeries, restaurants and small businesses. In fact, in my daydream, nearly all the large multinational companies ended up losing out. They couldn't transport their products across the world affordably to stock their MegaPantries and so they just closed.

But other businesses replaced those and it was okay. Maybe we couldn't eat strawberries in December, but that only served to make them all the more sweet in June. The local couriers' trucks disappeared but they were replaced by bicycles.

Our collective health even improved thanks to all the walking that returned as a commonplace activity and the absence of so many pollutants.

In my daydream, I was making my way to work along with thousands of others – pedestrians, cyclists, those in wheelchairs and scooters in a glorious harmony of humanity. No longer separated by our cars, we struck up conversations as we walked.

One lady thanked the Lord as a sweet morning breeze blew a honeysuckle scent our way. Another gave praise to Allah as we entered the deliciously cool shade of a tree. People actually stopped to admire the piercing blue bloom of a morning chicory. The children were running safely in the streets without fear of being smashed. Our friends with asthma were able to join us in the walk to work. Toxic Air warnings were a thing of the past.

And through it all was the intricately distinct absence of the noise, threat, smoke and speed of the auto. The cars all went away and we couldn't believe we ever got along with them in the first place.

Amen and let it be.


Deb said...

Dan- check out . He posted something so similar yesterday, you must be on the same wavelength!

Deb said...

oops... html tags don't seem to be working for me. The site is

Dan Trabue said...

wow. Thanks, Deb. His is a great blog. Another kindred spirit!

whollyman said...

Dan, I can't believe how similar our posts were. I love your vision and pray that it becomes a reality. We seem to be, indeed, kindred spirits.

Sky Niangua said...

Mackinac Island... up beyond the U.P of Michigan is a vehicle free island. It is beautiful, peaceful and clean. I am always saying I am going to get a horse and buggy. Good transportation and fertilizer for the land.
As to all that you are not alone in it..and I say...

So Mote it Be...

the dharma bum said...

thanks dan. a delicious dream.

minneapolis/st. paul is experiencing its hottest day of the year today. toxic air alerts have been issued. isn't it amazing, simply amazing, the kinds of disgusting shit we put up with just to sit in our cars, yelling at other people, risking our lives going way too fast, feeling very alone and angry???? just because it appears to be EASY?

my wife came up with a great bumper sticker idea that i'll share here if y'all promise not to steal it: "you are how you drive."

cars alienate us from not only our neighbors, but from ourselves. somehow, we forget about who we are or who we want to be, but become monsters.

your thoughts about how you'd be able to hear so many things, the birdsong and the river, reminded me of something kind of funny. minneapolis just banned smoking in all bars and restaurants. hallelujah. the funny thing is that i went to see a show at the famous first ave. nightclub shortly after the ban took effect and man did it stink in there! turns out all that disgusting smoke had been covering up the noxious smells of urine, garbage, b.o., fried food, etc... it was just kind of funny and in no way am i saying banning smoking was a bad idea (nor would be living in carless cities) but i wonder what sounds would surprise us in the city if we got rid of the constant white noise of the traffic?

anyway, great post. one that could get me rambling for pages. i love the idea, and you described it beautifully. more than anything, i love your vision for the healthy communities that would hopefully be a result.

Dan Trabue said...

I'm not a "good ol' days" kind of guy, too much. I acknowledge that back in the days of horse-filled towns, there was a lotta mud and manure and towns sometimes stunk.

Still, where horseshit may smell, it doesn't kill.

We can do better.

Greg Yost said...

Hi Dan,
Thanks for this. I had Will read it and he responded to it positively which is a good step for him. He's growing through some sort of multi-year misanthropic phase philosophically that is painful to watch sometimes. You were a fresh voice here making a case for a positive, non-industrial human future and he heard you. He can be so pessimistic about the human potential to live non-destructively that I am thrilled to see him be open to hopeful thoughts.

It's just summer, but I'm already looking forward to the retreat. See you then!

Kim said...

I agree with that vision - Matt and I were downtown the other day and we both kind of got that same feeling.

Peace to you, Dan. :)