26 February 2009

When you ride alone …

Back during World War II, it meant something to ride alone. If you drove without someone else in the car, or drove when you could instead ride the streetcar (yes, World War II saw the peak ridership for most streetcar systems, including the one in the Twin Cities), you were unpatriotic. Why? Because you were using precious resources like fuel and rubber which were better suited for the war effort.

Back then, the US Government, actually asked for collective sacrifice for the greater good. We were told that we should conserve resources, grow our own food, and recycle. In fact, the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis has been an active garden since World War II, the last community vegetable garden in the country from the war.

(There are a whole bunch of World War II propaganda posters online, here's a good compilation.)

In any case there was a recent spat, covered by the Star Tribune, at the state legislature, concerning just this poster:
During a presentation Tuesday related to a bill to reduce carbon emissions and the number of miles vehicles in Minnesota are driven, Dr. Julian Marshall of the University of Minnesota displayed a digital slide containing two versions of the historic ad.

The original ad is an illustration of a man driving a convertible and bears the slogan "When you ride ALONE, you ride with Hitler! Join a car-sharing club TODAY!" -- the idea being that a failure to conserve resources was aiding the German dictator, who was shown riding in the passenger seat.

The parody replaced Hitler with Osama bin Laden, a reference to oil-producing countries with ties to terrorism. It came from the cover of a 2002 book by the comedian Bill Maher, which was titled, "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism."

Maher's poster came out a few years ago, and the point he makes is that by consuming fuel we are funding the countries which sponsor terrorism. Or, as Marshall (a professor of Civil Engineering at the U) said:

"It's no secret that money spent on gasoline goes to places that are not very happy with us," Marshall said. "The issues we're talking about are all interconnected -- climate change, transportation, energy, geopolitics, climate security, energy security."

Marshall said he only meant to "provoke discussion about the effects of the state's transportation system." Of course, there were some other propaganda posters put out by the Federal Government during World War II. Each of them asked Americans to do something which would be patriotic, and help the country. One of them asked us to, well, just take a look:

Ah, yes, not only does car sharing save you money and help the environment, but it once was (and, perhaps, still is) the patriotic thing to do.

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