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.
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.
Massive personal and collective harm are features, nut bugs, in cars-first transportation. Basing everyday locomotion on heavy, complex, independently-steered boxes traveling at high speeds is never going to become compatible with anything like maximum personal safety and overall ecological sustainability. The laws of physics are, as Billy Bragg once observed, very, very strict.
None of this prevents those who prosper from the sociopathic reign of the automobile from pushing, with the help (or at least the non-resistance) of those who should know better, the delusion that better roads and cars are somehow, someway going to be enough.
Witness the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, which expresses legitimate alarm over the fact that 90 percent of the “1.25 million people killed on the world’s roads each year and another 20-50 million seriously injured” are residents of the Third World, but proposes to solve this problem by massively deepening the world’s reliance on automobiles.
According to the World Bank, what is needed in the Third World is more conventional development (“integration” in WB lingo), so that the Third World can become like the First World, where the level of “traffic safety” is, it says, just fine and dandy.
Should we somehow manage to transcend it and pass on the basis for further human progress, our grandchildren will want to laugh and vomit over such high-minded nonsense, which would be hugely obvious and repulsive in any age not utterly lobotomized by its own ruling ideas.
Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett is at the Consumer Electronics Show — the “Global Stage for Innovation” no less! (nobody ever said decrepit elites learn humility as they necrose) — today revealing some info about how his corporation is planning to keep selling its massively outdated product and, incidentally, to thereby keep the American population ensconced in market totalitarianism. As ever, the bedrock material basis for that latter outcome, so vital to our runaway overclass, is perpetuation of cars-first transportation.
Doing that, of course, requires deepening the already huge primacy of the automobile in urban planning, at a time when doing so is patently ecocidal and sociopathic.
At this point, this is going to require a new level of explicitness, as one can tell by this Automotive News headline:
Hackett says Ford expanding mobility vision beyond cars to cities
In order to peddle the “self-driving” products they obviously see as the next trick to make cars look modern rather than archaic, the automotive industrialists know they’ll have to build massive computing power into the physical features of towns and cities. Hence, this kind of stuff.
Of course, DbC remains more than a little unsure any of this will actually ever come to much fruition, as it would require huge breakthroughs in technological capability and reliability, as well as in theories of legal non-liability.
Since they will likely reduce the number of households with automobiles parked in their driveways, why is the automotive industrial complex so happily tolerating the advance of autonomous (driverless) cars? The answer is explained by Stan Cox.
The key is boosting overall automotive vehicle miles traveled, above the existing wildly unsustainable level. Pretty much everybody who’s studied this topic is finding what car capitalists have obviously already figured out. Cox mentions the pertinent findings:
The overall point is that robotic cars are a move to perpetuate cars-first transportation by tricking individuals into thinking the problem — which has yet to be acknowledged as a political issue in the United States — goes away when one doesn’t personally own a car. In our society of sponsored solipsism and mis-perception, this is a major, clever, very evil trick.
Here’s one your children and grandchildren will appreciate. It’s what the Democratic Party’s Congresscritter has to say about relaxing the rules for making and selling the machine that’s destroying the material basis for future civilization.
“Our bill makes simple changes so our manufacturers, suppliers, and workers can continue to make the best products in the world.”
This machine, of course, just happens to be the lifeblood of corporate capitalism and the unaccountable, decrepit overclass it sustains. Hence, such über-Orwellian stuff. “The best products in the world!”
The United States Department of Transportation “is requesting proposals from applicants to form an initial network of multiple proving grounds, focused on the advancement of automated vehicle technology.” Why is the public doing the automotive corporations’ job for them, to say nothing of the question of why THIS, this subsidy to one of human history’s worst, most dangerous technologies, rather than to test sustainable transportation/societal reconstruction/ecological survival projects?
It’s all iced with the usual Orwellian pronouncements. “Safety is our top priority,” says the Transportation Secretary, despite the sheer impossibility that any conceivable cars-first transportation order will ever approach the safety and fitness of the civilized, walking-and-bicycling-and-rail arrangement that has always been anathema to our market-totalitarian overclass.
They know what’s happening, even as they insist we keep speeding for the cliff:
“Electric motors are good for acceleration and for the stop-and-go of urban duty cycles. Internal combustion engines are great for highway driving because gasoline is an incredibly dense power source,” he said. “What you’re seeing at this show is that automakers are combining the two, in a wide variety of ways, for the benefit of consumers.”
“The EV strategy is still alive and well,” he said. ”Fuel is a finite commodity” and prices “will go up again.”