Power, Responsibility and Incidental Exercise

By Juliette Milbank, Baranduda

When I was 20, I finally owned my first car. I still remember the feeling of sheer, exhilarating freedom, the intoxicating power of being able to go anywhere, as often as I liked. Up until then I had relied on my mother or, when I moved out of home, buses, bike and walking to get where I needed to go, rain, hail or shine.

To drive everywhere is a privilege that has only become freely available in the last 60 years. Our society has become structured around the use of cars. However, our bodies are simply not designed to sit down all day every day and doing so has inevitable health consequences. Over reliance on vehicles robs us of valuable incidental exercise that anyone can do, regardless of age, shape or athletic ability (or income), as well as pollutes our air, burns valuable resources and yes, contributes large amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

These days I think about my car use very carefully. My husband and I are lucky and can work from home but we used to car pool or catch buses as much as possible. We chose our house for its walking distance to preschool, school and a small shop. We actively engage with our local community and have many friends within 1-2 kms. We walk our son the kilometre each way to and from school most days and when he is older he will go by himself. We make one or two multi-purpose car trips into town weekly  – if we run out of or forget something, it’s too bad!

We use the local bus during school holidays, to visit the library or other events in town. We limit sports/activities to a couple of really valued ones, or find local ones that we can walk or ride too. When we must drive we arrange to car pool with others going to the same activity.

We’re not perfect, but then the suburban infrastructure that we all live with makes it hard to be so. To live more lightly we moderate our wants and use common sense, so that we don’t hop in a car at every whim. It is cheaper for us, better for our health and better for the environment. After all, with any power comes responsibility – just because we can use a car to go anywhere anytime, doesn’t mean we should.