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Last evening, Ellen and I watched a Netflix movie, The Magnificent Ambersons. It is an old 1942 Orson Welles movie, remade in 2000 by Alfonso Arau. There is a bit of dialog in it which struck me as being very pertinent in light of the gulf oil spill. Oil has been spewing into the ocean from the very beginning of our trip; millions of gallons have been released into the gulf and there is no end in sight. That spill has cast a pall over our trip for me (pace the cheeriness of my reports). My feelings have ranged from appalled to horrified to saddened to despairing to anger to guilty to resolved....I am well aware of the irony/complicity of being on a road trip and using 100s of gallons of gas. As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us." The question is -- how do we change our dependence on the automobile? The dialog from The Magnificent Ambersons was as follows (the setting is Indianapolis about 1905)
George Miniva (arrogant young heir of the Amberson fortune), speaking to George Morgan (auto inventor, manufacturer, very nice guy, who is in love with George Miniva's mother and wants to marry her, but son George hates his guts): "Automobiles are a nuisance, they had no business being invented."
George Morgan (after a shocked silence around the table at this offensive remark made right to George Morgan's face): Well, I'm not sure but what he may be right about automobiles. For all their speed forward, they may be a step backward for civilization. Maybe they will not add to the beauty of the world or the life of men's souls, I'm not sure. But automobiles have come, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. And I think men's minds are going to be changed because of the automobile. But you can't have the immense outward change that they will cause without some inward ones, and it may be that George is right, and that the spiritual alteration will be bad for us. Perhaps 10 or 20 years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him, that automobiles had no business being invented."
Amazing words for 1942! Bravo Orson Welles! Well, now, 100 years later or so, with consequences Orson Welles could not have imagined, all the more pertinent words. Will this utterly catastrophic spill be the thing that finally causes us to change our behavior and end our dependence on oil?
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