Sometimes when I get stir crazy at home, I go over to the terrace tables at my local Starbucks at the Calabasas Commons to puff on a good Cuban cigar, usually a Cohiba Robusto. Or at least I used to
until the city council last week , in a global first, banned OUTDOOR smoking.
Though there are no second hand health effects when smoke dissipates rapidly in the open air, apparently the wafting aroma of a fine smoke simply grew too annoying for the aspiring Lee Kuan Yew's seeking to engineer a little paradise here in the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains.
Don't get me wrong, I love many things about Calabasas just as I do about Singapore-- the orderly,
landscaped lawns, regulated building styles, the preservation of ancient oak trees, the Saturday farmer's market, the Lake Como- village-style shopping mall where trees disguise the parking lot (though I could do without the piped-in muzak emanating from fake rocks). Like Singapore, Calabasas is definitely a managed space, and that can have its benefits.
Its just the glaring paradox of the whole thing that grates on me.
On any given day when I sat at the cafe tables puffing away, I would regularly observe the parade
of SUV moms from Calabasas and nearby Hidden Hills stopping off for a latte on their way home from yoga before heading off to round up the kids at their private school. Though universally waifish as upper class SoCal moms can tend to be, they nonetheless all drove up in civilian versions of tanks --Hummers, Ford Expeditions, Cadillac Escalades -- vehicles that my wife Lilli refers to generically as Extinctions.
These moms wouldn't be caught dead near a whiff of smoke. But it doesn't seem to faze them that they
are spewing more than their fair share of carbon exhaust into the atmosphere, doing far more damage
to the the warming climate than several lifetimes of second hand cigar smoke by Winston Churchill.
Some years ago, the Green foreign minister of Germany, Joshcka Fischer, discussed this phenomenon of molecular self-interest at the expense of the big picture. He was struck by the fact that German Greens smoke like chimney's, rolling their own cigarettes of harsh tabacco like joints, but would find driving an SUV more horrifying than the idea of preemptive warfare. But in Southern California, where smoking has long been banned, SUVs that warm the climate clog the freeways.
To paraphrase Leo Strauss, this is clearly retail sanity, but wholesale madness.
Now, I'm considering what to do. Should I propose a ban on driving SUVS? Or, perhaps, I should write
a novel dedicated to the Calabasas City Council and local SUV moms called "Thank You For Climate Change."