Dear Editor – Car Culture vs. Climate Crisis

Dear Editor,

Older folks like me remember the saying “think globally, act locally.” And no global issue calls for us to act quite like climate change. It’s only the future of the planet at stake. No biggie. But is there really anything that a small town like ours can do about it?

Yup. We can reduce automotive travel and incentivize more trips by foot, bike, and public transit. According to the Cool Climate models built by UC Berkeley’s climate scientists, reducing Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) is one of the single most important policies that Culver City can enact to reduce our per capita emissions… that and more infill housing construction (but that’s a different Letter to the Editor). To repeat: a reduction of VMT in Culver City makes a bigger climate impact than green building standards, or rooftop gardens, or tree planting, or just about anything else you can think of.

And great news: Culver City’s already doing it! According to the city’s own impact studies, our Move Culver City downtown mobility lanes have gotten folks out of their cars and walking (pedestrian traffic is up by almost 20%), onto bikes/scooters (up by a third) and even into busses (ridership is up about half… this despite a regional dip in transit usage after the pandemic). We’ve made amazing progress!

But now for the bad news: our current City Council is considering undoing the Move Culver City mobility lanes, and restoring our downtown strip to the carbiniforous cut-through car sewer that it was before. Climate progress: gone. And why? What ecological data are they consulting? Answer: a poll. Of residents’ feelings. Sorry, future of the planet! Our feelings matter more!

Here, though, is something to note about that poll: younger respondents— those 18-49 (i.e., the folks who’ll still be around to watch our planet burn)— were overwhelmingly more supportive of the Move Culver City lanes than were older folks like me. And one more thing to note about the poll: apparently the preferences of Culver City’s youth are literally immaterial. Not one single resident below the age of 18 was polled. They just don’t matter.

We can choose not to ask Culver City’s young folks if they want us to sacrifice their climate future for our car convenience. But make no mistake, they’ll render their judgment eventually. And that judgment— of all of us, but particularly of any Culver City Council member who votes for cars over climate— will be harsh, and richly deserved.

Patrick Meighan

The Actors' Gang