Published Somedays

How far out of touch with reality we've become

(updated: Jun 29, 2007)

Cheap energy from oil has permitted many beneficial things that have allowed us to prosper in ways unimaginable by our ancestors. It is a one-time gift from the earth that will never be repeated. We have proceeded to take advantage of this gift by expanding our numbers enormously, and as a result, we have created the unstoppable juggernaut known as suburbia.

My grandmother lives up in rural PA and still saves plastic bread bags and twist ties, scraps of Aluminum foil and plastic cups and utensils. She lived through the Great Depression. My grandparents kept chickens, grew a large vegetable garden in their yard, and bought milk from a dairy farm with the cows grazing right there (it was the best damn milk too). It's just amazing to contrast how she lived compared to how we live today. The sheer wastefulness and self-absorption of people's lives today seem too great for someone back then to comprehend.

So just to point out the level of insanity to which we've now reached, I'd like to present a letter I received the other day from the company that manages our development (and many others in our area). They are known as CAMS, or Community Association Management Specialists. This is a company hired by the homeowners association to manage and enforce the restrictive covenants of the development. So, in essence, the community we live in is a corporation that hires another company to police itself.

The restrictive covenants is a huge book which says what you can and can't do to your property. You can't, for example, paint your garage door pink, or polka-dot your house. But it also puts restrictions on size/height of kids playhouses, and requires approval of them as well. You also can't plant crops in your yard, or raise chickens or pigs. The list goes on and on. I've lived in many places, and this one has got to be one of the most restrictive and ruthlessly enforced I've ever seen.

So this isn't the first letter I've received from them, nor will probably be the last. I admit that I'd rather mountain bike and work on Blue Clay than tend to my yard, but I feel I do a reasonably decent job of it, especially given the current water restrictions. But apparently that's not a good excuse for these nazi-like administrators.

So rather than act like a real community, where people talk to each other, they send patronizing letters, threatening draconian measures that will be taken, such as hearings and state regulations and fines imposed, regardless of whether I remedy the problem or not.

Here's the letter:

They must have a definition of cleaned and maintained in the restrictive covenants that I'm not aware of that they subjectively interpret in their drive-by property inspections. Or maybe because there's a lot of houses and lots for sale in the neighborhood and they're not selling so they're focusing on the things they have some control over. There's more to the story but I won't get into it here.

So my point is, have we so insulated ourselves from where we've come from that as energy becomes expensive we have no idea how to deal with it and the suburbs collapse? When people put more effort into appearances and rules than into creating a sustainable, functioning community I think that's a bad sign. We should be learning ways to grow crops, keep livestock, and use rainwater like my grandparents did. Get to know you're neighbors and start sharing ideas for a sustainable future. Instead I have to waste my time dealing with small-brained people bent on continuing the status quo in a system that has no future.

Do you see what's going to happen here? People just don't get it. We have to change our lifestyles. We can't pretend that some technology will come to the rescue so that we can keep happy motoring utopia in the suburbs. It's over.

All the green initiatives that Mr. Schwarzenegger is putting into place in CA are going to fail, unfortunately. This is because they can't get around framing everything in terms of the car. The sooner we realize that our car-based infrastructure cannot continue the sooner we will be able to solve the problem. Otherwise the US is doomed. I don't think you or I will have to worry about it but I worry about what our kids will have to face.

The biggest thing you can do is to better insulate your home, get a programmable thermostat, replace all your bulbs with the efficient compact fluorescent ones, and start using your bike for short trips and errands. More than 40 percent of all trips in the country are two miles or less; one quarter are just one mile or less, and two-thirds of even these shortest of trips are being made by car. These short trips, which are by far the most polluting, are ideal distances to do on a bike. We can reduce oil consumption significantly just by doing this without spending any money on some panacea.

Only problem is, gas is too cheap, and they've made it so that we can't even ride a bike anywhere. Sad to say I've now given up running my errands by bike because there are so many more cars at Porter's Neck now and I get honked at and nearly hit. There are no bike racks either, just signs that say no bikes. It's really quite disgusting.

The government leaders of the greater Wilmington metro area must be some of the stupidest, most shortsighted people. Today in the paper they celebrated potentially closing the $439 million shortfall in funding to help build the billion dollar skyway toll road which would connect Carolina Beach to Brunswick county story here. Raleigh is building one as well. More roads lead to more cars and studies have shown that more roads lead to more congestion, not less. Yet the argument for building is always to ease congestion. And yet you can't get any provisions for bike lanes on these roads, or connecting shopping centers to residential areas other than by car. Give me a billion dollars and I can turn this place into the cleanest, friendliest, best city in the country for cycling. It would rival Amsterdam.

You know that the american way of life is failing when they refuse to serve you at a drive-in window of a bank if you pull up on your bike. Try it sometime. They made a rule that you can't walk or bike up to a drive-up teller.

Next month I'm going to write a big FU in my lawn. I'll post a photo here.


Filed Under: General Entries


1. Crack'nfail rider said...

Hey [SBA], so I am assuming that according to CAMS, you can't have a skinny stretching across your front yard, or build a pump track on your side lawn? Communists bastards... It's letters like the one you posted, and the horror stories that I've heard about similar organizations that makes me happy that I live out in the country of Brunswick county.

Can't wait to see the big FU!, that would be classic!

Jun 29, 2007 @ 6:17 AM

2. blueheel said...

I have to deal with CAMS also. They are ridiculous people. They should not have as much legal authority as they do. I often tell my wife we should ignore them completely.

Jun 29, 2007 @ 12:52 PM

3. Sean said...

Coming from Alaska and rural NY I just can't wait to get back to Wilmington to see hundreds of SUV's crowding the road and dealing with the materialism and selfishness that has become a positive trait to have nowadays. Up here in NY, we don't have that problem...and I only speak for upstate. Anyway, like we've said before, the only option is to "own the road" and ride as much as possible. If they want to build skyways and more roads, well the best way to handle that problem is fill it with as many bikes as possible. It's not just the city council and planners, although they're a bunch of ass clowns. Money speaks, and there's no money in bikes. Growth for the sake of growth...and Wilmington was once such a pretty I hear.

Jun 29, 2007 @ 2:41 PM

4. Sir Bikes said...

Politicians won't push for more bike access because there's not enough of us. They only do what their constituency demands, and right now traffic congestion relief is high on their list. Bikes are way at the bottom, if there at all.

Unfortunately, to get more people to ride you have to build the infrastructure first, but to get the infrastructure built lots of people have to be riding. But you can't ride here with no infrastructure and everyone so biased toward cars. To most people, bikes are just recreational toys.

Here's another example from an email to the CFC List I received this morning, reprinted here with permission:

Hi all-

As some of you know, I have returned to Wilmington. My bike trip, as with life, didn't really turn out the way I planned. Anyway, I have my old job back, but they (one person in particular) won't let me bring my bike into the office anymore. I need a place to lock up my bike during work hours, downtown, and the closest "bike rack" is two blocks away. I feel a little uncomfortable leaving the bike that far away and in the elements. I don't mind locking my bike to a pole or tree for a short period of time, but all day makes me a littler nervous. Of course, we have 3 or 4 covered parking decks for cars, with attendants, but bicycles aren't allowed in the decks so there are no bike racks. How do we change that? This seems insane to me, so if anyone has a suggestion on a place to lock up, I would love to hear it.


Jun 29, 2007 @ 3:21 PM

5. Sir Bikes said...

Oh, and by the way, when the skyway is built your bikes will not be allowed on it, just like the new bypass.

Jun 29, 2007 @ 3:23 PM

6. Sean said...

Wow, raining on the parade. I'm not sure if I should be surprised/angry or just used to it. Whatever happened to the organized ride idea anyway? Is that still being planned? I'm not quite done giving up on our patch of the south just yet, but I'm pretty damn close to it.

Jun 29, 2007 @ 4:39 PM

7. Sir Bikes said...

Yes, we are still planning the ride. It will be in August. People have tasks to complete. How's Friday the 10th sound?

BTW, here's an article in today's paper about congestion on NC interstates. The solution? Build more roads, even though the article states that NC has the largest highway system in the nation! Here's to more great unbiased ideas straight from the horses mouth, i.e., The American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Again, everything is framed in terms of cars.

Congestion plagues N.C. interstates

Jun 29, 2007 @ 5:31 PM


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