The Gateskeeper

photo of Bill Gates

Bill Gates isn’t stupid. But he also isn’t nearly smart enough to transcend money’s delusionary effects. He obviously thinks he’s not only entitled to his enormous voice, but that this voice is not far from being science incarnate. It isn’t. Predictably, it contains huge swaths of unexamined class bias.

Consider what Gates just said to the ongoing Leaders Summit on Climate:

[U]sing today’s technology, it will be virtually impossible to meet our goals. The reason is that nearly all of today’s zero-carbon technologies are more expensive than their fossil-fuel counterparts. To provide all the benefits of the modern lifestyle to people around the world, we need new zero-carbon products that are just as affordable—that have what I call a Green Premium of zero.

Bill Gates, April 23, 2021

Gates forgets to mention that some of today’s technologies can’t possibly become zero-carbon products, and that this impossibility, in fact, applies to “today’s” #1 technology — the automobile.

It will never be the case that having each household achieve its everyday intra-urban locomotion by owning and storing one or more 3,000-pound piles of complex industrial parts will come close to being ecologically sustainable. It is also true that we have already built out American society to compel such an effort. So, any green future is going to require a radical reconstruction of our towns and cities, to de-emphasize automobile use.

Yet and still, Bill Gates is a major peddler of the idea that all we have to do is electrify cars, and all will be well.

Indeed, he finds the very idea of doing anything else to be absurd. Here’s what he says in his magnum opus on the human future:

Imagine if everyone had gotten together one day and said, “Hey, cars are killing people. They’re dangerous. Let’s stop driving and give up these automobiles.” That would’ve been ridiculous, of course.

Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, p. 117

Yes, how ridiculous!

Even when posing to the contrary, it seem capitalists really are pretty damned heedless, as somebody famous once argued. Or as somebody else said, it’s damned hard to get a person to think clearly when it involves her/his wallet.

When 42,060 = Zero

car-skull

The National Safety Council has just revealed an astonishing fact: In the year 2020, the number of people killed in U.S. automobile collisions increased. This, despite the SARS-CoV2 crisis causing a 13 percent drop in total miles driven.

Unlike SARS-CoV2, the age profile on car-crash deaths skews young, rather than old. So, the loss of life-years involved is probably quite comparable to the society-closing crisis through which we are now living and about which we are now being asked to take frequent moments of silence.

Of course, when it comes to the carnage inherent in cars-first transportation, the silence we’re encouraged to maintain is silence about the cause, rather than the effects, of the disaster.

Ah, the 120-Year-Old Question

thinking skeleton image

The New York Times today reports that urban officials around the nation are spending time rethinking transportation, now that SARS-CoV2 has hinted at what a wasteful clusterfuck cars-first transportation really is.

Here is what Randy Clarke, “president of Capital Metro, the Austin [Texas] public transportation system,” tells the Times he’s pondering these days:

“How do we make a system that’s more equitable and sustainable, and give people more options besides cars?”

That, of course, was the pertinent question roundabout 1902, when, a year-and-a-half before chartering the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford was gushing to his brother-in-law that “there is a barrel of money in this business.”

Or, somewhat more generously, in 1917 or 1918, during U.S. involvement in World War I, when automotive road construction had not yet triumphed as the master plan for our spaces and places.

Unfortunately though for Randy Clarke and his peers, by this point, no technocratic answer to this always-epochal (and still-never-democratically-asked) question exists. We have long since built our entire, continent-spanning society in such a way as to compel maximum automobile use. The facts now are very much on the ground.

If we are ever going to undo this still-heavily-sponsored (read: business-dictated) mistake, it is going to take a gigantic, aggressive, and clear-eyed Green New Deal. Nothing else stands a chance of making a meaningful difference.

Speaking of Incalculable…

Here is this morning’s banner headline in The New York Times:

It is macabre and self-defeating to get very far into the fool’s game of comparing mass deaths. But this description of 100,000 premature passings just simply uber-begs the question: Why isn’t every 100,000 excess deaths an incalculable loss, a scandal, a moral challenge?

The only reasonable answer, of course, is that it is.

So, why then do the 100,000 people who die early every year (40,000 of which lose their lives via the violent horror of automotive collisions) in the United States as a result of cars-first transportation not only not a scandal, but not even mentionable?

The only reasonable answer to that question is that TPTB and BAU dictate that only certain incalculable losses are to be calculated and discussed. The ones that arise from ordinary profit-making endeavors are certainly not among these.

Ah, the Good Old Death-Threat

In the United States, threatening children’s lives has long been a tactic for selling the product that has long been the #1 killer of children and young adults in the United States.

The shameless and ghoulish tradition continues, thanks to your friends and mine at the General Motors corporation:

“Buy a Chevy Equinox or your kids will die,” in other words.

Only in America, as they say.

The Chutzpah of the Age

At Nuremberg, they at least set out the standards for deciding who was a public-sector mass murderer.

No such standards, of course, exist for our glorious entrepreneurial killers. Because, you know, “free market.”

Consider the breathtaking temerity of this recent statement from Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:

We’re very much looking forward to rolling out this technology because we do believe it will save lives.

quoted in Automotive News, June 30, 2019

The technology in question is the haloware/vaporware known as robotic (“self-driving”) cars, a product which — lo and behold — “everybody in the industry underestimated how hard a problem this was going to be.” [industry observer quoted in same source as Barra quote above]

But the deeper story here is Barra’s shamelessness about the actual relationship between her organization/product and public health.

death rate chart

In the United States, you see, automobile collisions alone (cars-first transportation also kills in quantity in less immediate ways) have, since their epochal triumph over sane transportation technologies, killed almost four million people.

Despite sponsored and faux-critical hoopla about safety improvements that have reduced the physical danger of individual automobile collisions, the present rate of annual car crash deaths remains about 40,000, which just happens to be exactly the average for the years since 1945.

Oh, and, by the way, more than 8,000 of our current annual dose of 40,000 car-cullings befall individuals aged 0 to 24, a.k.a. children. Children. 8,000. Killed. Every year. By automobile collisions.

Meanwhile, over the top of it all, Ms. Barra speaks of “saving lives.”

Orwell couldn’t have dreamt up this true, and continuing, story.

Lots of Children Left Behind

Over at NBC News, this chart appears under the headline “Guns kill twice as many kids as cancer does, new study shows”:

graph showing child death rates

Golly, corporate news source, tell us: what else does this graph show? And why-oh-why might you not be putting that top line there in your headline? Might it be that the automotive-industrial complex remains your biggest source of customers?

A real crank might also observe that the NEJM report from which the graph and data were taken here cuts off the definition of childhood at age 19 (see the fine print above).

But we now know that basic human brain maturation extends to about age 30. By leaving out late childhood — the life stage that includes those we have erroneously called “young adults” — the chart here is distinctly conservative in its depiction of the automotive meat-grinder’s effects on our youth.

Our economic system’s #1 commodity is also the #1 health menace for Americans in their early 20s, as it is for those aged 1 to 19.