Here is a thought exercise. Draw a circle. You get to make the circle as big as you like, but you have to spend the rest of your life inside the circle. The vast majority of us would have absolutely no problem drawing a circle around the solar system, but I suspect a few NASA types would still reserve the right to send probes outside that would transmit back pictures of an extra-circle landscape. The vast majority of us would likewise have no problem trying to circle around the planet. It's a big planet and is always something new to do. Now for something a little harder.
Draw a circle around your continent. You can do anything you like, but you can't leave your continent. Pretend there's a plague on all the other continents and if you visit there you will be compelled to vote for Hillary Clinton. Now if you have a hankering to go to Venice, maybe you could be content with Vancouver. Want a beach adventure on the Great Barrier Reef? Perhaps Baja California will be adventurous enough for you. You absolutely must go to a place that requires you learn a foreign language? There is always Texas. How would it be if you do the circle around the country, your state, or perhaps even your county. How small could you draw a circle and still live a rich and happy existence?
Let me throw one other wrinkle into this thought experiment. The bigger you draw your circle the smaller your children will have to draw theirs. And not just you, if you and everybody else in your generation. And not just your children, but all the other children in their generation, and don't forget about their children. To make this little bit more realistic, you'd really need a series of concentric circles representing how far you go in the average day, week, month, and so forth. We humans consume vast resources just to shove our bodies around, and the only consideration is usually can I afford it. I think the better question is can we collectively afford it?
You might think the resource I am referring to is fossil fuels. While that is partially true you also have to take into consideration steel, copper, roads and rails, trains and airplanes. Nothing is without cost. A Toyota Prius driver might feel holier than a Ford pickup driver, but in reality they are only about 30% holier and the road they both drive on costs exactly the same. This is why I find the endless debates about CAFE standards, flex fuel cars, and even carpooling to be rather tiresome and largely pointless. Even the best of them only make our biggest problem slightly less bad. This is why I believe the circle is a more useful way to think about conservation. If your daily circle is 50 miles across, your travel options are very limited. If your circle is 5 miles across you have many more options.
The problem is most of us make decisions on where to live, where to work, where to send their children to school, and how to entertain ourselves based on the 50 mile circle. This is sad, but true. Sadder still many of these decisions, like buying a house, are difficult to undo.
The circles work both ways. The closer the things you buy are to you, the less energy it takes to bring them to you. By this scale, local beer is better than travelled beer. Local produce is better than that shipped in from California, Mexico, or China. It's not only better for the planet, but it is better for your local/state economy. Think of this as the tree-hugging equivalent of Buy American. Local water is better than shipped water. I view this as the worlds biggest "duh" yet the bottled water companies collectively make billions and waste vast amounts of energy shipping tap water all over the country. ("Tap water?" you ask? Yup. If you are curious google "aquafina tap water". If you now feel like a gullible prat remember true learning never comes without pain.)
If you can arrange to live most of your life within a five or ten mile circle the switch to more efficient transportation becomes a no-brainer. It's woth thinking about. Try it. The next time you feel like driving to dinner, a movie or some other diversion, don't. Think up something to do that doesn't require car. When is the last time you tossed a frisbee around? Or maybe dinner and a movie isn't out of the question. Most people I know live within walking distance of a local eatery, and if you don't consider this the next time you move. Maybe even, gasp, invite a neighbor over and shrink their circle a bit too.