March 23, 2005
Just what are we accepting here? Car production climbs, inexorably… some manufacturers toy with hybrids and alternative fuels but essentially most of this new car production is fossil fuel burning, both during manufacture (30-40% of the car’s value) and afterwards (the rest of the value in fuel and oil).
Now “we” say that’s what “we” want – it’s the market at work after all. But “we” have also agreed to load the dice in favour of fat, flabby, fossil-fueled cars. Western developed nations have invested monumental sums in driving hard pavement to our doorsteps, just so we can guzzle gas in comfort all the way to our homes. It’s what we want, apparently. But did we realise that there were, and are, options? Did we understand the costs as well as the benefits?
Global warming – the whole greenhouse thing. A “lot” of it -don’t ask me what percentage, but think it through, it’s a large percentage – is from petrol-driven cars. Fact. If or rather when the sea level rises enough that we notice, will the car companies pitch in their share to fix the problem? Or will it be too late?
Safety in our neighbourhoods – well how safe are we when we let cars shoot past our doors, our kids, our pets, our parks, our schools, ourselves? Often we are just centimetres, or inches, away from death. One false move, step off a curbat he wrong time and we are wearing a car bonnet. We accept this – are we mad? What are car companies doing here? Sure, they reluctantly make bonnets more forgiving, but it’ll still hurt.
Quality of life – not only do the cars whiz around pumping out gases and particulates, roads get increasingly wider, cutting us off from the other side, stopping us from considering walking across the road – so we get in the car instead. Communities are carved in 2, both on economic grounds and because we want to get “there” quicker.
Native animals also have a hard time crossing big roads, may I add. Does that matter, that we continually erode our natural environment and reduce diversity?
Exercise. We we just don’t do that anymore, except as a “program”. Why not walk? If we were fitter, not fatter, we’d live longer and feel better. Drug use would fall. Hospital queues would shorten. Apparently we don’t see this as worthwhile. Fat, depressed and lazy is OK, as long as we can drive to our doorsteps!
Roads also lead to shopping malls, carparks and business “centres” at the expense of shopping strips and village atmosphere. It’s a matter of scale. Economies of scale. It’s not necessarily the right thing, it’s just what we are offered. When we accept it we encourage it!
Rage! Modern cars, suitably fat with plush padding, isolated from noise, vibration and harshness have allowed us to separate ourselves from our normal civilised behaviours and take up all sorts of anti-social antics. We bully. We speed and queue jump. We cut people off. We do all of the things we really wouldn’t do – except in a car.
Bottom line – because we accept the car industry’s line and buy their products and expect a road to our doorstep we effectively have voted for degraded cities, global warming, diminished diversity, poor health, increased anger and lesser quality of life. Not that I’ve done anything about it myself – but I do recognise what’s happening and now I’ve told you.