Tighten the (fan-)belt

We all knew it was coming. Oil prices have been going up without end, and fossil fuels won't last forever. But (like so many impending disasters) we thought it was still a long way off, and we had time to adjust.

Seems it's not so. China has stepped up demand for fuel, hurricanes knock out a couple of suppliers, and we're all feeling it. Here in South Africa we've had fuel price hike upon hike - it used to make news headlines, now it just happens unannounced. They've warned we could be paying R7 to R8 per litre by the end of the year, making a tank-full a good few hundred bucks a shot.

You'd think the answer would be to car-pool - right? Wrong. The government has a funny little law that says if someone is contributing to your transport cost, you have to register as a "taxi" or a professional service. Or face the wrath of the law. It's ridiculous! So cars travel the daily commute with a mere one body inside, and the consumer suffers.

It's a ripple effect. Up the fuel price, and transport costs increase - leading to increased food prices, or clothing or just about anything else you can think of. (Yet when the fuel price drops, those prices just keep climbing - explain that one!) That means our salaries get stretched further in a vicious cycle that simply doesn't have an appreciable end!

So what to do?

  • Well, we could all take up cycling and get to chat to our fellow-commuters as we wait in cycle-jams.
  • We could walk - though it might be good if some of us start now already, if we're to make it by next week. Others of us may have already forgotten how to do it...
  • We could take a train or a bus - only our public transport here sucks. It's either non-existent, dodgy (and dangerous) or has broken down and never been fixed. This ain't London or Sydney!
  • We could car-pool and face a hectic fine.
  • We could all invest in hybrid cars - but I have yet to see one on the roads other than the SmartCar, and anything available is WAY out of reach of Average Joe's pocket.
  • We could try new ways of travel - with the gale-force wind that frequents these parts, perhaps kite-surfing (skating?) to work is an option? If it keeps raining, we might be able to kayak. Or what about a boing-boing oversized spring type thing to sit/jump on? Or one of those people-movers that require a mere shift in position to change direction. Perhaps a city-to-city escalator service?
  • We could buy a horse, or revert to covered wagons and oxen (does that qualify as a taxi?) - using them in the down-times as lawn mowing services and fertilizers for our organic gardens at home and edible landscaping around the office.
  • We could live within 1km of where we work - avoiding the 4-hour commute, road rage and ulcers involved, and home turning into a mere stop-over. We could invest our skills in the same place our homes are, actually living at the same address our post arrives at. We could use our talents to better the community where our homes are, instead of outsourcing them to far-off places and hoping someone doesn't break in to our fortress while we're away all day. This could actually be the answer!

Whatever the solution, we can't hold off making decisions much longer. Already spur-of-the-moment road trips, one-person vehicle transport and long commutes are becoming not only expensive, but more and more impractical. Our pockets are being stretched beyond our means (for many of us), while at the same time the environment is damaged and the natural resources run out.

We can't wait for government or someone else to fix this one - you know how a good plan can get bogged down by paperwork! It's up to each of us to find solutions, change our lifestyles and implement alternatives. Before we wake up one day to find it's all gone.