In 2009, National Geographic conducted an annual study measuring and monitoring consumer progress toward environmentally sustainable consumption in seventeen countries around the world. The resulting "Consumer Greendex" found that Americans ranked as the world's least green consumers. Of all the nations surveyed, we have the lowest percentage of people who use public transit on a daily basis. And we have the highest percentage of people who never, ever, take public transit.
How did this happen? Are we Americans that antisocial? I don't think so. But our public policies have had unintended consequences.
The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 produced an enormous network of highways across the United States. The largest public works project in American history to that date, it paid for a vast suburban road infrastructure, making commutes between the suburbs and urban centers much easier and far quicker. In part, the system was justiﬁed for reasons of national defense. It provided roads big enough to carry our tanks, in case the Russians invaded.