"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The crowbar protocol -- An environmental plea

Those of you who know me know that while I'm in favor of environmentalism, I'm not exactly a hardcore tree-hugging, bunny-coddling, Gaia-worshipping, vegan eco-guerrilla.

I admit that plastic and concrete have their roles to play in life's rich pageant and that if we want computers, flat screen tv and air travel, there will always be some industrial wastes and fossil fuel to deal with. I admit that I could do more, but I recycle, I take public transport almost everywhere (easy to do in Tokyo) and try to avoid excess packaging (very tough to do in Tokyo). I don't think eating meat or using disposable diapers or throwaway chopsticks made from farmed poplar make me an evil person.

I think that if women must wear cosmetics, which going by most of the women I see, they must, then I'd rather the stuff be tested on cute lil' fluffy bunnies than third world children. I think the Kyoto accord is good, but could go farther, and would love to have an electric or fuel cell car.

In short, I would consider myself a moderate environmentalist.

So it may shock you to know that I am very close to taking a crowbar to some windshields in this city on the basis of my environmental beliefs.

Tokyo is situated in a sort of coastal bowl that traps warm wet air in a thermal inversion. In summer temperatures in the mid 30s are the norm, with humidity around 80 to 95 percent. Smog builds up to the point that on bad days the sky can be a brownish yellow and the government advise old people and children to stay indoors. Obviously changing the geography and the weather patterns are not really options, so you would think cutting down on air pollution would be a priority. And for some it is.

But for the truck drivers, delivery people, tradesmen, salesmen and taxi drivers of Tokyo it clearly is not. Like many people in this country, they spend long hours at their jobs, not working, but sleeping. Obviously when you work 12 hours a day, every day, a little siesta at lunch or even on company time is a nice thing. People in my office (you know who you are) regularly nod off at their desks. But what about those who aren't in the office? What do those who spend their day out of the office do for a place to sleep and dodge work? Use a park? Go to a movie? Spend an hour getting coffee at Starbucks? Nope.

They get in their cars, vans and trucks, roll up the window, crank up the air conditioning and sit there with the engine running. For hours at a time, pumping filth into the air, driving up the temperature and making more smog.

Few things piss me off more than to walk along the sidestreet next to my home and find it nearly bumper to bumper with cars parked with their engines running, spewing exhaust into the air and radiating heat. What is worse is seeing the same vehicles there when I come home two and half hours later.

I'm thinking of getting a small notice printed up in Japanese to ask them not to run their engines, but I fear the response will be to dismiss me as another annoying foreigner who doesn't understand Japanese ways.

That's why I'm leaning more and more to the crowbar protocol idea. A notice that reads: "Turn off your engine you lazy, inconsiderate, selfish shithead or I'll smash your windshield with a crowbar. You are poisoning the air I breathe and I will consider it self-defense to smash the hell out of your car and even you if that is what it takes to get you to shut off the engine. If you need an air conditioned nap so badly, go home or to the mall or the donut shop -- because if I see your vehicle here ten minutes from now, with the tailpipe smoking and heat dissipation haze hanging over the hood and your white socked feet up on the dash and you snoring in the driver's seat, you will soon be picking windshield glass out of your hair."

Then all I have to do is walk along the row of parked cars, tapping tires and maybe windows, very gently with my three-foot tempered-steel crowbar and smiling a crooked smile.

Of course I could opt for the cyber vigilante method and email time-stamped digital photos of the snoozing employees to their companies head offices, since the company name is often on the door of the car or van. Sure, it would probably lead to fewer confrontations with drivers upset that their nap has been disturbed and far less police involvement, but there is something so satisfying about the crunch of a heavy iron bar on supposedly shatterproof glass that I just don't know if I can deny myself the pleasure of pursuing my own Buford Pusser/Steven Segal style of environmentalism.


Unknown said...

A number of other suggestions have since been made as an alternative to the crowbar, including making a stencil reading "shut off your engine while parked" that could be used along with spray paint to leave a lasting reminder on the hood, door or windscreen. A sticker bearing the same message plastered on the offending vehicle is also a possibility. As is knocking a sweet potato up the tail pipe....Not that I'm advocating vandalism, it's just nice to imagine the short term effect.

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