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Can there be a better world?

Cory Farley

12/27/2004 07:27 pm

Life is a series of compromises, somebody said. It may have been Woody Allen, though I think he was the one who said Life was “a dismaying series of missed opportunities.”

Nothing is clear-cut anymore. Do you buy shoes where they’re cheap, or where they’re not made by slaves? Pop for the reliable car from the nation that still kills whales, or the 25,000-miles-and-kaBOOM model from the one that doesn’t?

We touched on these issues Friday, in a column about buyblue.org and choosetheblue.com. Both are full of information for consumers whose consciences haven’t shriveled.

Got another one.

First, full disclosure: I’ve been an AAA member for decades. I love the maps, depend on the tour books, and the few times I’ve called for help, they’ve done what they promised.

I do have reservations about the “club’s” politics, though.

The most important issue to me is the environment (which in a sensible world wouldn’t be a political issue but a scientific one, and once you understand that you have a good start on the underlying problem).

The American Automobile Association is to cars what the NRA is to guns. Its officials and George W. Bush, I’m confident, will be the last people on Earth to recognize that cars cause problems that cannot be solved unless we face them squarely.

And yet I belong.

If there were an alternative, though, perhaps I wouldn’t. And maybe there is.

A couple of readers have sent links to the Better World Club, which bills itself as “the world’s only environmentally friendly auto club.” BWC claims to provide nationwide road service, insurance, maps and even bicycle roadside assistance. It gives discounts on hybrid car rentals, supports mass transit and the Clean Air Act and donates 1 percent of its take to environmental causes.

They know who they’re competing with, and they know it won’t be easy. AAA is so entrenched and works so seamlessly that it’s hard to see why anybody would take it on. There’s a link on the BW Web site to compare the two, though, and from there, it looks close.

I’m not a member; I just renewed with AAA and I’ll let that run out. I can’t shake the nagging worry, though, that we’re about to follow our leaders, all dressed up and with the band playing “America the Beautiful,” right off an environmental cliff. Nobody in a position to change our direction is paying attention at all; what thought they give the matter is devoted to belittling those who want to fix it.

Better World is a tiny start, but maybe it’s the thin end of the wedge. Check it out: betterworld.com, (866) 238-1137.

Cory Farley can be reached at (775)788-6340 or cfarley@rgj.com.

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