Saturday, July 21, 2007

May and her Anti-Automobile Agenda

More than half provoked by the recent car-related death of the mom of one of the sweetest, geekiest girls I've ever met, this blog is dedicated to my hatred of cars. However, I'm not going to list off a bunch of reasons you may or not agree with. I'm also not going to try and convince you to stop driving a car (although SUVs are a different matter). What I will do is explain my top 5 reasons why I do not like cars.

1) They encourage unsustainable lifestyles
With the daily use of cars major changes occurred in the average American's lifestyle. Add plastics to the mix and you've got a recipe for disposables that lead us right where we are today: facing down the biggest crisis mankind's ever been aware of. We have too much waste, too little food, too little oxygen, too few plants, and very little time. There are a lot of easy choices that anyone could make any day of the week to deal with this problem, even in small ways. Our indoctrination into a way of life powered by instant mobility and instant gratification is one that cars make possible, even though it's obviously not good for us.

2) Car-related fatalities are excessive
According to the 1999 National Transportation Safety Board's Report to Congress:

Each year highway accidents take tens of thousands of lives and cost the Nation billions of dollars in lost productivity and property damage. In 1999, approximately 41,611 people were killed and 3,200,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. The human and economic costs are staggering, costing about $137 billion in medical costs and property damage losses. That equates to about $375 million each day lost on highway crashes.
$375 million every single day! Even if you don't care about the deaths of strangers (which is hard to do [see reason 3 below]), think of all the money in taxes it is costing you EVERY DAY to support a system "driven" on automobiles.

3) Cars are driven by people
While a lot has been said -- some even intelligently -- about the Grand Theft Auto franchise, I find the players' fascination with reckless driving to be the most telling. I don't mean to imply that GTA encourages bad driving. It does, however, bring up a pertinent point about how drivers interact with one another. The violence inherent in GTA never really bothers anyone because no one cares about the death of a non-person. Unfortunately, this lack of concern stretches into RL too, and has been since long before the PS2 was ever even a gleam in a programmer's eye.

One death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic. - Joseph Stalin
Unfortunately, Stalin had it right. But it's not just the deaths of strangers that don't matter to us, it's also pretty much everything else about them. All other drivers are outside our Monkeysphere and there's very little one can do to change that. No one driver will ever car about safety for others like s/he should, which means people will continue to do stupid and dangerous things and die or cause the deaths of others. If driving continues to be treated as something we're entitled to rather than a responsibility it will be mishandled and accidents will happen.

4) More wheels = less walking
Think just a minute about the green spaces around you. Is there a park nearby? Do you have a backyard? For several years I lived in places where it made no sense to go outdoors to be in nature because everything was so over developed. When people can't even find a place to sit beneath a tree for a while undisturbed by others, I think that's a problem. And, granted, I don't think everyone shares my joy of sitting around in the woods, but green spaces do more for us than you'd think... Including the increasing property values and drawing new business/tourism, which is good for everyone in the community.

Plus, let's once again face the obvious: Americans (generally speaking) are fatties. Did anyone else see Les Triplettes de Belleville? There's a reason why Europeans think we are so gross. (Take a look at the "typical American audience" featured in this video if you don't know what I'm talking about.) When people choose to drive a few blocks instead of walking because it's "easier," that's a problem. When people have to drive without even the option of alternate transportation, that's a problem. When everything depends on a machine that we can't run unless we destroy other nations, that's a problem. Which leads me to my final point...

5) Cars use oil
3,633 American troops, and a minimum of 67,945 Iraqi civilians have died since Congress rolled over and let Bush declare war in Iraq. While you can debate the pros and cons til your eyes fall out, it won't change the fact that we're in Iraq for the oil. And if you are driving a car then you are supporting the war. It's that simple. Is driving your car really worth buying into the death and destruction that we are leveling against an entire nation?

And remember:

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! Good night!


Austin said...

I think I hear Bill O'reily, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh crying. Great article! I'm not one to support excessive driving, but I have to say I thought the correlation drawn between supporting the war and driving was questionable. The way I see it, the government has capitilized on a commoditiy we cannot live without (at this point at least). Our cities are too spread out, and walking to work just isn't feasible for most. I don't know I could be wrong but, it seems like the issue is government exploitation rather than individual activity. I like that you pointed out how many fatalities a year are automobile related. People have a moral responsibility to drive safely and economically. It makes me angry to see Johnson county women driving huge SUV's and Hummers recklessly. They're doing untold damage to the enviroment as well as putting the lives of people around them at risk.

At any rate, great article "May's Machete" has been added to my favorites : ).

May said...

First off, thanks for the comment.

Secondly, you are totally right about my comment on the war and driving being weak. I don't think that individuals are the only people responsible, but as individuals we make up society collectively. But I'd wasn't really trying to blame people, just maybe make someone rethink what they're doing.

Joe said...

I consider myself rather anti-car. And yet, what can you do? We've inherited, from the generations before us, an economy that requires quick and affordable transportation. But I think awareness is on the rise. My hope is that not only will alternate fuels become the norm soon, but that the whole concept of internal combustion engines will be replaced by something else. I'm sure there are plenty of ways to make a car move these days. We just need engineers who can think outside the box and, more importantly, be given permission and funding to implement those ideas.

May said...

I completely agree.

Paul said...

I suppose you were waiting for me to disagree, and here I am, waiting to disagree. First, I'm sorry for your friend's mom, it is unfortunate that people seem to have a very hard time driving responsibly. Though I hate to say something contrary to what your anti-automobile agenda would be at a time of sorrow and anger, I think that using a tragedy in one's life, or one culture's life for that matter for political purpose is something below you. And I hope that discount commerce and advertising, what made the internet so popular that a blog can exist, which seemingly increases and decreases the need for automobiles is something you take into consideration in your stance on vehicles.

1. You claim that automobiles are mostly responsible for global warming. I hate to bust your bubble, but mitochondria evidence dictates that the earth went through the same thing before the ice age. Though it seems that our use of toxic gases and the depletion of the Ozone level is causing the accelleration, ultimately the lesson of evolution is that nature will learn to adapt. Though, it is possible that we could see an Extinction Level Event in our lifetime, it's quite possible that the sun could supernova and wipe out the earth entirely. I am not a denier of Global Warming, however, I am a firm believer that nature will even itself out, and as what happened before with the Bubonic Plague and the ice age, people will survive. We always do.

2. The NTSB is a lobbyist organization, and therefore isn't exactly a credible source when giving a report to congress. It's like the Family Television Counsel giving a report to the FCC. If you weren't doubting at all the sincerity of the report, it would also have a statistic on how many lives were saved because of automobiles, which is far greater than the 41,161 automobile related deaths. Yes, ambulances and fire trucks are good things.

3. I'm not entirely sure what GTA has to do with what you are saying, but the lack of concern for people outside themselves far outreaches the automobile. How many people have diamond engagement rings (of which Holly does not), and how many people wear clothing made by the exploitation of other people. The success of capitalism over communism has made everyone expendable, and it doesn't take a car to enable that. Note the time from the end of slavery to the birth of the automobile and you see very few years in between.

4. Apparently you aren't for the Baroque or Renaissance art work, but the term rubenesque comes to mind, which is a french word might I add you. For moral certainty, I certainly don't look to France for expertise. I believe that our culture, which is so driven by fear is the reason why we are "fatties". Then again, I'm overweight too, and I don't really think the term gross applies to anything other than one of my tastes in cinema. I believe that the obesity problem in america is driven more by psychological issues than nutritional issues. Why do I say that? Because in the 1800's again, americans were much slimmer, and that people ate much nastier food for you. There was a time when you drank cream instead of milk. Continuing the story back to your original point... Europe is as car centric as we are. Though diesel engines are far more efficient than typical fuel, they produce almost double the emmissions that cause these problems that you are talking about. If you don't think europe isn't carcentric, look at the existance of the Autobahn. A road with no speed limits through mountains and what have you. I think that global warming is a global problem and should be treated globally, not some feeble attempt at people from other countries to blame the US for a problem that they are part of.

5. Yes, the Iraq war was about oil, and oil prices. Iraq wasn't a member of OPEC, which pressured the united states into action. We are a member of OPEC and therefore we have to bid for our own oil use, which causes the gas prices to go up, especially now that China seems to want to be the number one automobile buyer in the world. But not just cars use oils. The plastic on the keyboard that you typed your keyboard on, the paint on the walls in your house, the clothes on your back, the shoes on your feet, the fuel to cook your food, almost everything in your house uses oil. There was a picture in National Geographic of a family that took everything in their house that was partially or completely petroleum based and put it on their front yard. It looked like they were moving out. If you don't believe that oil isn't important, then pretty much everything in your life outside your family (your husband would be too) would be vanished, including your education and your library, would have not been feasible if it wasn't for the automobile and the dastardly use of petroleum.

May said...

I really wasn't waiting for you to disagree.

I'm not trying to use a personal tragedy for political ends. I have very personal issues with cars and they've been on my mind recently. This was just one more thing that was added to the list.

I don't mean to accuse cars for ALL of global warming issues. But it is a fact that they are part of the problem.

I also don't think that rubenesque is the same thing as fat and I don't use the terms interchangeably.

I don't think that the USA is the only country with a gas problem. But as an American I don't feel I can speak except as an American, so I was leaving the rest of the world out of it. Of course global warming is a world-wide problem. We're all in this together.

I know that cars and plastics have done amazing things for our lives, but the point is it doesn't matter now. We have to find a new way to handle our lives, our waste and our resources so that we're not killing each other off with lazy lifestyles.