I have just read Shelley Scott’s letter to the editor about the Aug. 16 Q&A with Joe Keohane on his book, “The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World.” That same interview made me want to read the book, which I am now doing, and I am finding the ideas are enriching my life.
I understand Ms. Scott’s concerns about the dangers of speaking with strangers. I grew up in Chicago and lived in Boston. I have known uncomfortable confrontational moments, and the city tradition of not looking strangers in the eye. I am not deep into this book, and find it cannot be rushed. But in flipping ahead, I found a specific reply to her concerns on page 224, where Keohane says he understands that a tall white man could be treated differently and he isn’t suggesting anyone start, push, or continue in situations that make them uncomfortable. There may well be more replies in the book.
I find myself looking for ways to make simple contacts authentic and more meaningful, even if very quick. I now live in rural Maine, and recently at a restaurant I told two strangers (who asked) some good places to visit in my area. I felt a warmth in the conversation, and that it was more than just directions jotted on a paper napkin ring.
EVs aren’t risk-free
The Aug. 30 cover story headlined “The electric car age: When will it arrive?” begs the question: Who is waiting for this so-called revolution and why? I would prefer to see an analysis of the pros and cons of transitioning to electric vehicles.
Unfortunately the mainstream press has largely avoided any discussion of the negative environmental impacts or national security implications of a technology that relies heavily on rare earth minerals and substances, like lithium, that are now sourced mainly from a few foreign countries.
Equally troubling is the common assumption that electric vehicles represent a cleaner, greener technology. But electricity is only as clean as the technology that produces it, a large part of which involves burning coal and other fossil fuels. And has anyone considered the capacity of the electrical power grid to accommodate such an increase in usage? This and many other questions need to be answered.
Gate City, Virginia
The Aug. 30 cover story headlined “The electric car age: When will it arrive?” asks the wrong question. With 50% to 60% of U.S. urban areas dedicated to the personal vehicle (roads, parking, and driveways), we should be asking, “The sustainable mobility age: When will it arrive?”
Shifting to electric cars simply shifts the burden to the power grid, which still relies largely on burning coal and gas, and is vulnerable to power outages.
Electric cars do not resolve our community’s urgent social justice issues for those who cannot afford vehicles or who are unable to drive. They do not alleviate our growing urban heat islands and stormwater runoff, which are both exacerbated by climate change. And they do not solve our public safety issues to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries. We can choose a better path forward by de-emphasizing the role of the personal vehicle and prioritizing other modes of mobility.