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Craven: Exhausted In Nantucket

07/13/10 7:55AM By Jay Craven
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(HOST) Commentator and Marlboro College teacher Jay Craven recently attended the Nantucket film festival where the films were illuminating and the filmmakers were gracious and articulate.  The only snag he encountered had nothing to do with the movies.

(CRAVEN) The only kink in my whole weekend occurred when I inexplicably became a magnet for anyone on the island who wanted to park their idling vehicle outside my first floor window at the bed and breakfast.

It started at 7am Friday morning when I heard the sound of a small car starting.  This was no big deal-until I realized that it just kept idling and idling.  Ten minutes passed, with the car sending a steady stream of exhaust fumes directly through my window.  

I sat up and looked out at the offending vehicle, a peach MG sports car.  Nice rig-but I became congested and dizzy as I breathed in the smoky mix of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic hydrocarbons.  

Unable to take it any longer, I pulled on a shirt, walked into the street in my boxer shorts, leaned into the MG's front seat and turned off the key.  Within two minutes the owner, a cool looking dude in his 20's, walked out his door, stepped into his MG, and turned his car back on.  "Good," I said to myself.  "He's leaving."  Except he then got out of his car, lit a cigarette, dialed his cell phone, and started talking - to whom I don't know.  Maybe the devil.  Then he walked back into his house, with the car still running.

I walked into the inn's common room.  But a husky teenager outside that window revved up his gas-powered leaf blower and started blowing debris from one lot into the one next door.  So, I went back into my room. The MG was still running and a van had now pulled up under my other window.  It was also idling, with the driver nowhere in sight.

Suddenly, I felt like Mister Hulot in a Jaques Tati comedy, where Hulot finds himself clumsily navigating the absurd landscape of modern life.  And I thought about how the toxic oil now spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is actually small potatoes compared to the poison we're emitting daily into the air.  

I remembered the recent New York Times report about Nigeria, where 11 million gallons annually overflow into the land and water, from oil wells operated by western companies.  No one seems to care, much less clean it up or pay for damaged health, wildlife, and well-being.  Indeed, kids were photographed playing in streams black with oil.

We all bear responsibility in this.  I've ridden in an electric car and enjoyed efficient fast trains that save millions of barrels of oil. I live at the edge of a forest where there are no power lines - where three families make solar electricity - but that's clearly not enough.  The oil disaster in the Gulf is more than a wake up call.  It's a fifty-alarm fire.  The time to act is now.  And for starters, let's not leave our cars running.
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