At age 84, Marika Davidek is an activist, organizer, reiki practitioner, student, teacher, volunteer, and grandmother. She unravels an impressive list of community involvements and rich tale of activism efforts.
And she does it all without a car.
Marika became car-free five years ago – several years before she felt it was physically necessary to do so. The decision wasn’t easy or spontaneous, and began with introspection about her personal impact on the world. “I have six grandchildren. I’m doing it for them…to spare them my pollution,” she says. A lifetime student, advocate, and fighter for the environmental cause, Marika feels that going car-free was “not very much compared to what needs to be done, but if I can help even a little, I’ll do it.”
Once she started looking at the environmental benefits of going car-free, “I had to work on myself psychologically. When you give up your car, you have no idea what a limitation that is.” To mentally prepare, Marika read up on alternative transportation and explored options like the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District’s bus system and EasyLift, a door-to-door transportation service for seniors and people who have disabilities. Finally, while Marika was in Oregon with a friend, her daughter asked if she wanted help selling the car. “I said yes,” Marika recalls, “It was easier. I kissed it goodbye and I never had to see it again.”
As with many aspects of her life, the way in which Marika made the decision to go car-free has been a model for her peers. “I’ve always been leader of the pack” she says, and she feels partially responsible for enlightening those around her to social and environmental issues. Thus far, she has managed to convince three neighbors to follow her lead to car-free transportation.
Not owning a car does nothing to slow down the industrious Marika. She takes the bus to UCSB to host her weekly radio show, to the Santa Barbara Public Library to tutor students in English, and to the Breast Cancer Resource Center to volunteer. She carpools with neighbors or her daughter to go grocery shopping. She walks to Schott Center at SBCC for adult classes on self-improvement and to the YMCA for yoga. When traveling long distances – such as to Oregon and Washington to visit her grandchildren — Amtrak is her mode of choice. And she is working on organizing an alternative transportation program at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara.
Of course there are challenges to not having a car. She mentions the organization and awareness necessary to plan her day around the bus system, and sometimes the weather is an obstacle. “One morning it was so cold I couldn’t move. The driver was wonderful. He got off and helped me on,” she says. “I depend on people, I do. But they always come through with flying colors.”
She once missed her bus and asked for a ride from someone stopped at a stop sign. The woman happily exclaimed how she was heading that direction. “People need to be a little more trusting and a little less suspicious. All you have to do is ask,” Marika says. “We can help each other reduce vehicle trips and, ultimately, climate change.”
Marika is an individual who works for solutions. She ties herself to the world through community service and making personal sacrifices for the environment. A veteran activist who has seen many faces, Marika reveals, “I think each person is an individual. They have individual needs, capabilities, and gifts. Each has to think for themselves to plan and realize that our earth needs help.”