Most reviewers of my books have had very positive things to say about them, for which I am grateful. I have seen a few, uh, mixed reviews of my latest, Cyclist's Manifesto, and that doesn't surprise me a bit, as it is a strange little book to be sure. However, I have been struck by these reviewers' admitting to driving a specific model of car, the Toyota Prius.

The Manifesto contains a little rant about the Prius and the backward greenwashed sensibility which seems to be driving much of its popularity. This has been a difficult one for some people to process. One or two critics have knee-jerked their way to calling me anti-environment, which is simply ridiculous. I literally hug trees, bark and all. Bark-on-skin, mmmm, good. I'm not even anti-Prius -- the Prius is a snazzy little snubnose, the most efficient car currently available for normal folks in the US, and I might even get one myself one day if I ever feel I have to buy a new car and have the money to do so, despite its laughable profile. If you have to drive you do well to drive the most efficient car available to you, right?

The thing that gets me is the insidious notion that driving a car like the Prius is GOOD for the environment. Let's get this straightened out. Driving a Prius is bad for the environment. Real bad. Making it caused considerable harm to Mother Earth, and driving it will too. Comparatively efficient though it may be, driving a Prius is still a super-extravagant way to move oneself around -- as with any 3000-pound motorcar, which wastes the vast majority of energy that is put in, and uses the vast majority of the remainder to move the tremendous and unnecessary weight of the machine itself. Driving a Prius is much more akin to clubbing a seal than hugging a tree.

And yet, some of the Prius people act like they deserve a Congressional Freedom Medal because the poison cloud that they're putting out is a little bit smaller than the poison cloud that someone else is putting out. Annoying.

So I have a question for the Prius drivers out there: Do you really believe that your Prius is good for the environment?

Because some of you seem to. Many more perhaps stand eager to consume the illusion. Recent advertising campaigns for the car have played upon this apparent belief. In a popular TV commercial, which has won awards for creativity as well as creepiness, the narrator claims that the Prius "gives the world fewer smog-forming emissions." Hold the phone, Doris! That's some kind of miracle car! In fact we'll have to admit that driving the Prius gives the world more harmful emissions. It adds poison to the air just like other cars. It helps melt the icecaps, etc., makes things worse. A disclaimer appears at the bottom of the screen in tiny letters, beneath a waving field of babies, who are for some reason not wearing helmets, to disclaim that "fewer emissions" is relative to the average car, of course.

What seems obvious to some people may not be so obvious to others. Is it possible that some proud Prius owners go forth under the assumption that their boxy little chariot cleans the world a little bit with each drive, consuming the harmful exhaust particles produced by conventional vehicles and spitting out pure condensed happiness from its tailpipe?

Prius people, if you think you're doing the world a big favor, you need to get over yourself. Driving that thing is about as far from a blissful state of "harmony between man, nature and machine" as you can get. Such harmony belongs to another class of vehicle entirely.

We've got to watch out for people who think they can save the world by driving. They could sink us all.

 


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