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Rush hour for the Jetsons, Hanna-Barbera

Let me ask you something.  If some brilliant scientists finally produces cold fusion or hot fusion or some other limitless and cheap power supply, what will happen?

The price of oil will drop.  We’ll pull out of all of our wars in the sand.  Saudia Arabia and the extraordinary wealth in the UAE will decline a bit.  The automobile industry will reinvent the car.  And economies will react accordingly.

But how will we change?  How will we be a better world?  Better people?  There will still be traffic.  In fact, it’s likely road construction will increase to accommodate the increase of cars as people drive more because it’s no longer expensive to do so.  And since driving will be cheap again, developers will buy cheap land outside of cities and build cheap homes for people to live in.  And people will drive.  And all that time that they could be doing productive work, or spending with their families, or on vacation, or reading a goddamn book instead they will be sitting in traffic cursing the world.

We’ll still be running out of green land and drinking water.  We’ll still lose our minds trying to keep people from crossing our border.  We’ll still need jobs.  We’ll still be in the same jam we’re in today.  And yes, to a large extent that’s unavoidable.  But not completely.

There is a way out.  There is a solution.  There is something we can do.

Just imagine how nice it would be to be able to walk down the street some Saturday evening to grab a burger and a beer.  Think about the extra time you’d have if you could let your kids walk or bike to school rather than packing them into the SUV every morning and sitting in traffic or in the school drop-off line.  What if you could stop by the coffee shop on your walk to work and with all the extra time you saved by not commuting, you could sit and read the paper or a novel while you sipped your coffee and had a cinnamon roll, which you can eat now because you aren’t spending as much time sitting on your ass in traffic.  What if your teenager got a job at the ice cream shop around the corner and you could stop by and see her once in a while, and what’s more, she knew you might do that.

Is this all too outrageous?  Is it such a complicated notion?  I know it’s not for everyone.  I know some folks like rural living, far away from activity with plenty of space of their own.  And maybe some people are afraid that having a pub a couple blocks away will bring unwanted riff-raff into the neighborhood.  And there are even some people who like sitting in their cars, driving the same path day after day after day.  And to a point, we might just say, to each his and her own.  But there’s something else that needs to be said to those folks:  It’s not just about you.  We cannot wall ourselves off from the rest of the world.  We need to learn how to live with one another.  We need to actually interact.  That’s how we learn about tolerance.  And it’s also how we can save land and money and even make our world safer.

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