Published GW April 4th, 2013
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Reading ‘What your car really says about you (15 March) brings to mind both the tale of the emperor who had no clothes, and the catalytic comment by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, ‘Drill rigs and battleships are the answer (but what was the question?)’.
The cult of privatised, instant mobility has a hideous underside; cars generate 20% of greenhouse gases; poison soil, water and air at all stages of their lifecycle; drive oil wars; usurp 35% of urban land, turning our streets into noisy, dangerous rat-runs while forcing everyone to inhale their excrement; annually murder 1.2 million people and injure 30 million; and are complicit in the epidemics of asthma and obesity. There are a billion cars in the world, and the number is growing exponentially.
Now it’s proposed, as an act of terminal and bloated self-indulgence, to turn these Molochs into giant smartphones. The mining and processing of the rare earths underpinning this technology have already turned Baotou in Mongolia into a noxious wasteland (Hunger for rare earths leaves toxic legacy, 10 August 2012). Coltan, another essential ingredient, fuels civil war in the Congo; in a brutal twist, Congolese women are raped, driven off their land and end up working as slaves in the coltan mines.
Cars not only displace their real cost onto less privileged humans and our 8 billion co-species, but defraud and despoil the future; how can driving be freedom when it’s based on an ecocidal, therefore fundamentalist lie? Fundamentalists can go to perdition any way they like, as long as they don’t take my children’s children with them.
How do we strip the glamour from cars? What’s the difference between driving in a public place and smoking in one? Cigarettes are at least silent.
We’re driving our way to extinction. Private cars are incompatible with a healthy biosphere, hence our survival. They’re as small-brained and doomed as dinosaurs; so are we, if we don’t break their addictive spell.