In America, it has long been taboo to pay critical attention to automobiles’ centrality in our lives. It remains a very effective and important taboo.
Witness “The Toll of America’s Obesity,” an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. In it, a pediatrician and an economist, both from Harvard, review the basic facts about the continuing escalation of obesity rates and burdens in the United States. In the author’s view, obesity is a “diet-related disease.”
And, indeed, so it is.
But can anybody think of another reason why obesity has been relentlessly worsening across recent decades? Might it have anything to do with the continuing automobilization of our lifespaces? Might worsening fatness in America also be caused by our ever-deepening, never-so-much-as-mentioned subjection to mandatory cars-first transportation policies and outcomes?
The question answers itself, yet remains utterly out-of-bounds. This is true even on the political left, which has never quite summoned the chutzpah to take the first step toward transcending prevailing ideology/taboo. That first step would be a serious class analysis of transportation in the USA.
With all due respect to legions of well-meaning McKibbenite activists, our problem is cars and corporate capitalism, not fossil fuels. Nevertheless, it is true that, because of the continuing reign of cars, some very powerful corporations enjoy spectacular privileges, including outsized influence on our minds. In order to perpetuate this remunerative arrangement for as long as possible, these corporations do engage in rank, fully-knowing propaganda. To wit, this little ditty from ExxonMobil, which runs frequently on corporate TV:
Gosh, Exxon, if your scientists have unlocked algal oil as a source of automotive fuel, why the wait? Why “someday”? Why not now?
The answer, of course, is that algae are absolutely not a potential source of meaningful amounts of automotive fuel, now or ever. This is due to the nature of algae and the laws of physics. Trying to make them so would require converting the entirety of the nation’s arable lands to alga bogs. ExxonMobil knows this full well, yet hires marketing agencies to sell the direct opposite claim. Such is the foundation of “our” economy.
The rescue of 12 Thai children aged 11 to 16 is the lead story in the world corporate media today. This, of course, is only fitting, since we all value the lives of children so highly. To lose a child is the ultimate tragedy.
Except when it is not.
According to NHTSA data, in the year 2016, automotive collisions killed 1,797 children aged 16 and under in the United States. Literally zero news outlets have have reported this fact, just as zero (other than DbC) are mentioning it now.
The loss of 5 kids under sixteen every single day is simply uninteresting and unmentionable here in the land of the free and home of the brave, because attending to it would point up the fact that corporate capitalism’s core commodity is the leading cause of death for American children aged 1 and above.
In a prior post, DbC misread the statistics and mis-reported the story of the death of children in the United States. In preparing that post, I mistook the number of children who were involved in a fatal car crash with the number of children killed in car crashes.
The real story is that, in the year 2016 (the most recent available), a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 24 died in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control data. Of these, 8,210 died in car crashes. That is 19.5 percent of the total.
So, the true story is this: Automotive collisions are the leading cause of death in the United States for those aged 1 through 24, but the numbers are lower than DbC previously reported here. Apologies for implanting untruth.
So Trump is getting ready to relax federal rules on automotive fuel efficiency, as the second great SUV-selling bonanza continues apace, with the crucial help of the loss-leading “EV” haloware schtick. In the automotive industry and press, this astounding stupidity is known as “modernizing CAFE standards.”
Here is GM CEO Mary Barra’s totally shameless statement on the topic, per Automotive Age:
“A single, national standard would allow us to focus our resources on innovations that benefit our customers and society as we pursue our vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, instead of diffusing resources to meet different rules within the United States,” Barra told GM’s workforce.
Benefit society? Zero crashes? Zero emissions? Here’s major proof that you don’t need cojones to have world-class chutzpah.
In 2016 in the United States, a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 25 died, from all natural and artificial causes. Of these children, 8,210, or 19.5 percent, were killed in automotive collisions. This result was not an anomaly. It happens every year on a similar order.
On this day of rallies for sanity and democracy and public health, I think this literally unremarked fact is worth mentioning.
Maybe someday, we, the people, will shatter the Great Taboo on telling the truth about cars-first transportation in America. We’d better, because that core institution is speeding us to Carmageddon, whether we notice it or not.
Mostly to automate long- and short-distance delivery driving (i.e., to further reduce labor costs), the overclass is sponsoring a huge and massively hyped research project, in hopes of coming up with robo-trucks and robo-taxis. So, imagine a triple trailer running on “AI” as you watch this video of a Tesla driver saving at least two cars full of people from “autopilot” catastrophe:
Turns out that successfully driving automobiles — and success kills 40,000 a year in the USA and 1.25 million worldwide — is extremely complex.