I want to lay out a statement of what it is I do, and why it is that I do it. This is an attempt at sorting out my ideology and life's philosophy, including (but not limited to) how it relates to my transit activism. Here, I sort out who I am and what I believe, and why it drives me to do what I do.
Also related to the Manifesto (they might be considered a very early version) is my three-post series "Why I Ride", which ran between December 2008 and March 2009. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are available for your reading.
First, I am a humanist. I believe that this life is almost certainly all that we can expect from existence, and that it is the only thing that we can be certain of. I believe in the inherent worth of human life in particular, and in life in general, as we are all part of the same massive family. It is therefore our duty to all of our fellow living things to work together to improve our lot in life, as it is the only life we have.
Second, I am a progressive and a democratic socialist. I believe that government is simply a very formal way of people joining together to help each other. I believe that broad participation in decision-making is a noble ideal, both in civil society and in the workplace. I believe that, properly designed and with the right people, government can be a strong force for good in society. I believe that the poorly-restrained market capitalism of the last 30 years is a force for substantial evil, and that markets can be strongly regulated and still provide plentiful incentive for innovation. I believe that the wealthy owe their wealth largely to the society that nurtured their endeavours, and they have a moral duty to give back to that society through strongly progressive taxation. I believe that every human being, by virtue of their humanity, deserves decent housing, plentiful food and as much education as they have aptitude and desire for- oh, and communication and transportation, too.
Third, I am a social scientist. I believe that the scientific method provides the best, and most objective, method for finding truths about the world. I believe that the free and open sharing of information, especially research data, and the free exchange of ideas allows us to determine just exactly what is going on, not only in the natural world, but in society at large. I believe that, given time, science will continue revealing more and more about the universe and our place in it. I also believe that it will continue revealing more and more questions- and that the most exhilarating to happen to a scientist is the discovery, not of a new fact, but of a new question. I believe that universal education is paramount to allowing our society to reap the benefits of scientific inquiry, and that strong support for basic research in all fields ought to be a social priority. I also believe that there is no higher calling in life than to add to the sum of human knowledge, which leads me to my current career.
Fourth, I am an environmentalist. Since this is the only life we have, and since we are of necessity connected to the ecosystems around us, we must take what steps we can to preserve the planet that we live on, and ensure that said planet is conducive to human life. All of my research indicates that the post-war automobile-driven development of this country is among the greatest threats to the capacity of our world to support human civilization. Among said threats, it seems that it is the only one that the mainstream environmental community is largely ignoring- environmentally conscious individuals use re-usable shopping bags, buy organic foods, and conserve power at home, but think nothing of driving to the grocery store to put their organic veggies in their canvas shopping bags. I therefore consider it a moral obligation to fight sprawl and automobile use, before such things destroy the world as we know it.
Fifth, I am an urbanist. I believe that humanity is a social species, and that we function well in large communities. I believe that traits of city life, such as plentiful nightlife, abundant art and culture, walkability and density are pleasant and enjoyable, and I believe that a majority of my fellow humans feel this way. I believe that government and business policies over the last 50 years have artificially created the suburban lifestyle and culture, and that more people would live in dense, walkable neighbourhoods if there were enough supply of such neighbourhoods that they were affordable. The continued sky-high prices of urban housing lends support to this proposition, as does the fact that suburban residents will drive substantial distances to walkable town centres, or malls designed to look like them. Since suburban sprawl is so damaging, and urban life in such scarce supply, I believe that infill and dense development is crucial to the future of our society.
Sixth, I am a cyclist and a transit rider. Since cars are so damaging, and yet so plentiful, I feel hypocritical every time I get behind the wheel of one. I live my life without reliance on the private automobile, in an area where such a life is unimaginable to most of my neighbours. In doing so, I hope to set a positive example for my fellow Riversiders, and encourage them to join me. (I know of at least three people who have begun riding transit more often, thanks to my example and encouragement.)
Seventh and lastly, I am an activist. There are many things about our society that I believe need to be changed, and I consider it my moral duty to affect that change. While, as an urbanist, I would admittedly prefer to live elsewhere, Riverside is my home for the time being, and I therefore have a duty to improve it. Through this blog, and through my personal activities on a local level, I hope to help make at least a portion of Riverside into a place that people can live car-free and happily.
I hope that reading this document gives you a sense of who I am, why I do what I do, and what Riding in Riverside is all about.