We all make decisions everyday of our lives, and the lives of others. Some are clearly ethical, like not killing someone who you can't stand. But most aren't that clear, or have that great an impact (discounting the butterfly effect). You're high-moral decision may or not coincide with others.
Since you bring up that we don't live in a value free world, might I suggest that one value decision might be to not stand in judgement of the decisions others make.
I have a simple philosophy. I expect folks to respect (or not to actively disrespect) how I live. In return, I respect how they live.
But you won't agree that I have no right to spoil the air that we all breathe. I don't get the disconnect in your moral system--face smacking is bad but polluting is a responsible lifestyle choice. But that's why we have a political system (and Internet forums, for that matter), because we disagree on the limitations of rights and need mechanisms to reconcile our disagreement.
And again, I'm not saying that people have no right to drive cars. I'm trying not to talk about it as "your rights" versus "my rights." I don't think that's a productive basis for a discussion of the Common Good or general welfare. At this time in history, the common welfare is defined as "cars are good." Society is very much stacked in favor of cars. This is a decision that was made by society, with or without your awareness. I would love to see the definition of common welfare changed to "cars are bad." Mostly because they are bad, in many ways, although we didn't know all the negative consequences when cars were adopted 100 years ago. I think change will be a gradual process but I hope it happens soon enough to actually do some good.
I choose words carefully. I'm sure you tolerate the behavior of people who's opinion of what's appropriate differ from yours. Tolerance is a good thing, but tolerance is not respect.
There's nothing wrong with having opinions about how to live, and including things like sustainability in those decisions. There's nothing wrong with trying to influence others to think like you, if you believe that's something you should do. There's nothing wrong with trying to use political process to change the way others live.
But the minute you decide your decisions are morally or ethically superior, then respect goes out the window, and tolerance is what's left( at best).
My problem is I don't want to open that door. If I decide that it's OK for me to impose my views on the ethical issue of driving (global warning, air, pollution, traffic noise, etc) then I open myself to folks imposing their views on me on other issues such as diet, health, sexual preference, religion, etc.
Life would be much easier if we all agreed on EVERYTHING, but we don't, so I don't tell people how to live, and don't let them tell me.
When I retire I will not drive at all.
But I'm kind of lost on your "high moral" verbiage. And your "respect" philosophy leaves me a little lost too.
If a poster feels the automobile has considerable negative consequence for our society, should you not respect that?
At least, shouldn't you consider the possibility?
To be honest I don't think about driving much. It is just something at times I feel I need to do. It is a bit like taking the elevator in an office building to the 15th floor. I get in the elevator and get out without thinking about the trip between floors. That being said I do like riding my "Bikes". I like it enough that I prefer it and will not drive simply because the time or distance isn't a consideration.
I do see the point about some being more "urbanists" if that were a word. Many can just as easily post they hate or dislike driving but they also dislike riding anything that might be called a hill. So to them public transportation might be the answer. As far as moral issues the same issues exist for those who fly in this forum as it does for those who drive. At least from many of the studies that have been posted even here. So it really all does come down to respecting others decisions on life choices, at least if everything we choose is laid on the table for others to examine.
I have a good friend that is a professor at a local college near me. Last year he had solar panels installed on his house and this year he leased a Nissan Leaf. He was teasing me just today that he has a smaller carbon footprint than me even without cycling. I am not sure that is true but he was teasing and still I had to stop and think about it. Does it matter really? More than likely not because we are both doing what we feel is best for our family and our idea of what needs to be done.
But even when I used to drive tractor trailer driving never made me nervous or anxious. It was just a job and the truck was just the tool to do the job. Traffic could be bad in LA or San Francisco or even San Diego. But if a simply realized that I was going to get to my delivery whenever I got to my delivery and not a moment sooner things were cool. Same with commuter traffic. Leave earlier if you worry about being late.
It's a fine line, but I do not consider tolerating other's decisions while feeling they fall short of ethical and need to be changed, as respecting those decisions. Tolerance is a good thing, but it falls short of respect. (of course that's just my opinion).
However... just so you know... I don't always respect people's decision to live according to their preferences. This really has nothing to do with cars. But I've seen some people "prefer" things that have some terrible and immediate consequences for my life and the society I live in.
I also don't respect all other's decisions, some I only tolerate, some less than that. I just try to keep it straight in my own mind.
As far as living car free goes. To me it's a choice, but not a cause.
I actually really hate driving. For a while I had a legit medical reason not to drive. After I died and was dealing with the damage hypoxia caused, for a while I just couldn't concentrate enough to drive. That went away after a while, but then I found every time I rode in a car, I got violently carsick. That too eventually went away but I found still that I really just hate driving or riding in a car. I don't own a car, but every now and then my roommate lends me his car like if it's a torrential downpour and I have to go somewhere, or if I'm driving to go see my daughter who lives 20 min away. While it's something I am now physically able to do, it's just a very disagreeable sensation to me. I have nothing holding me back, but it's just very not fun. Other drivers take the whole gig way too seriously and will scream for you to go to hell just because you drifted an inch to center, or because you're going 44 mph in a school zone and they're trying to catch McDonald's breakfast. When I ride in a car I still get slightly carsick, but more or less, I am convinced we are about to get in a wreck at all times. I'll go places with my girlfriend and sometimes I have to legit put my hands over my eyes because I'm convinced we're about to go all Red Asphalt.
My intense dislike of driving is a big part of what pushed me to go car free. When I have to drive, I usually get home and have a stiff drink or lay with a hot towel on my face to calm down. Because it's just awful for me. If I can avoid being in a car, I will.
If driving was like they show in the car sales commercials, all the time, it would be fine.
I used to buy old Porsches, Audi's, and other Euro cars but over the years I find that I just use cars for utilitarian purposes like going fishing/camping or shopping with my wife and boys. Driving stresses me out too, although I admit that I would not mind an 80's Lancia Delta for winding mtn roads BUT, I will never stop riding my bike every day... until time takes its toll. I love bikes as much as the air I breathe. BTW, I am (literally) giving away my Volvo wagon in trade for a moped this spring. The wife's Jeep will do for our car needs.