SEATTLE, Washington / The Seattle Times / Books / Interview / June 7, 2010
Whidbey Island author, 60, gives up cars for a year
An interview with Kurt Hoelting, a Whidbey Island resident and author who spent one year within 100 kms of his home.
Whidbey Island resident Kurt Hoelting spent a year without
using a car and stayed within 62 miles of his home,
and then wrote a book about the experience.
By Mary Ann Gwinn
Seattle Times book editor
Kurt Hoelting has spent a lifetime weighing the implications of his actions. A former Harvard Divinity School student and campus minister, wilderness guide, commercial fisherman, practicing Zen Buddhist and meditation teacher, Hoelting has watched the emerging evidence for climate change with a deepening sense of gloom and a burden of responsibility for his own role in it.
Though he got a book out of his experience, Hoelting says the project was no "stunt" — rather, a desire to slow global warming by making choices within his control. Personal actions are "the low-lying fruit that can be harvested without delay, " he writes, until technology and policy can catch up.
Getting out of your car is a mood enhancer. Hoelting writes that he's grappled with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). He found that getting out into the weather, regardless of how wet or cold, took a lot of the emotional weight off.
Kurt Hoelting EMI MORGAN
Environmental degradation is hard to contemplate; "it's easy to be discouraged and fall into depression and despair," he says. "I benefited from the physical exercise and exertion and the contacts with the elements. It grounded me. "
Getting out of your car is a social lubricant. Walking, busing, biking or kayaking got him talking to people he might otherwise never have met. "I found people quite responsive to what I was doing, regardless of their politics or opinions about climate change," he says. "They were appreciative of what I was doing because I was putting my money where my mouth was, rather than just ranting about my concerns."
Getting out of your car doesn't have to be a sacrifice. Quoting the Sightline Institute, Hoelting notes that short, solo passenger trips within three miles of home "burn a third of all gas pumped at our service stations." Many short trips could be walked, biked or bussed. Those kinds of trips, which he still does every day, keep him grounded, healthy and balanced.
I thought of Hoelting's words last week as I contemplated the current Gulf of Mexico deep-water oil spill/blowout, a depressing catastrophe with no solution in sight. Maybe I can't stanch the gusher, but I could walk to the grocery store next time I need a banana. So much healthier than pulling further into the foxhole, waiting for someone else to come up with a solution.
Mary Ann Gwinn
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