Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Big Rig" Shows Need for Sustainable National Logistics

I recently happened on the DVD "Big Rig", a 2007 documentary by Doug Pray on the transportation shelves of my local library. And I'm glad I did. The film spans the US with interviews with truckers and those who serve them. It is beautifully and movingly filmed, with panoramas of cities, mountains, and plains providing a visual counterpoint to many interviews within the confines of a moving cab. The soundtrack is an unusually catchy mix of eclectic hip-hop-, blues-, and country-influenced songs by Buck 65, with a smattering of old country trucker ballads thrown in.

Certainly, as many other reviewers have said, "Big Rig" vividly and convincingly portrays the courage, perseverance, dedication, camaraderie, and faith of those that drive trailer trucks across our country, carrying rivers of consumer goods and raw materials that are critical to our economy and lifestyles. But it also portrays the destructive and tragic side of long-haul trucking. The scenes of smoggy cities girdled with truck-clogged freeways make a clear case for policies that encourage intermodal transport, consumption of local products, and less consumption overall.

The toll on truckers is apparent also. The majority appear haggard and unhealthy, and talk of failed marriages and other casualties of spending most of their lives on the road. Many of the interviewees have achieved financial stability along with a sense of autonomy and self-worth through trucking, and enjoy their work. But some have also become reactionary and resentful, railing against a federal government that suppressed Native Americans and built railways, irrigation projects, and highways so the entire country could be traversed, settled and farmed. The same government uses its treasure, influence, and military might to secure much of the oil necessary to fuel the trucks they drive and power.

This film tells us that sustainable logistics could help heal not only our planet, but also the fabric of individuals and communities that comprise our nation.

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