There is a tight line between indulgence and responsibility which, especially when we let it go slack, runs the risk of self-strangulation. Think of any luxury – it need not be an extravagance, though they often are at first until we find just the right rationalizations – and you can at hint at what must eventually be reconciled in order to court it. You know who the piper is, in other words.

It’s easy to think about this in the context of the current financial turmoil, even in our trade deficit with China. We’re living on borrowed money and there will be a bill. A similar logic follows our infatuation with the automobile.

It sounds somewhat puritan but it’s only common sense; there is a commensurate price for an indulgence – indeed it’s one definition of an indulgence. Cars allowed us to conquer and use this continent in specific, splendid and often stylish ways, mostly to our benefit. Or so it seemed at first. Now, it looks like they will exact a terrible price from us for what appears to be the ability to live in far flung reaches, move about at our leisure, and siphon vast amounts toward heating the planet on the installment plan. It wasn’t all bad – submarine races by themselves almost acquit the entire mechanism. Almost. But there’s actually no case to be made about whether the invention of the car was good or bad; it simply happened and we bit, and we’re left to accept the consequences of moving our society forward via the automobile, literally, exactly to here.

So, untangle the line and connect what you do to what it requires, and understand that our alleged independence was a mirage. We start by becoming conscious of the small things and then we realize there really aren’t any. Your town becomes different when it’s a place you walk through, take the bus then bike across instead of drive through. They’re not even comparable. Onward, to more solid footing.