A recent article on Discovery's eco-conscious Planet Green site touted six reasons why cars have destroyed society. We object to them; we find them ungrounded; we find them to be cliched and without point. We are irritated by the fact that someone chose to publish them, and we felt they needed addressing.
For the record, we welcome an intelligent discourse on the automobile and its effect on society. The car is a flawed device, and we wish to address its problems. Parrot disconnected statistical symptoms after reading a new book, however, and things 'round here get a wee bit twitchy.
1. Highway Robbery
The average price of a new vehicle in 2008 was $26,477 but, say Lutz and Fernandez, the costs keep coming. "The U.S. Department of Energy reported that the typical American household drove its average two cars about 22,000 miles per year," they write. "Most recent estimates calculate that driving costs the average American 66 cents a mile, or $14,000 a year per family to drive their two cars over the distance."
Woo, this is a good one. "Cars cost us money," eh? Sure, that's valid. You know what also costs us money? Food. Rent. Bus, train, and air fare. All those things are getting more expensive with every passing day. Way to go, dude. Way to point out a problem, logically discuss its issues, and then suggest an alternative that will be both low-cost and inflation-proof and . . . oh, wait. You didn't. You suggested nothing, and did little more than point out that moving from place to place ain't free.
What are you trying to say? That we should give up anything that provides us with a benefit but returns a degree, however small, of frustration? I suggest you return to reality. I suggest you consider life outside a big city, life in middle America. I suggest you go soak your head.
In 2007, Americans spent nearly 500,000 years stuck in traffic in 2007 (nearly 4.2 billion hours)—more than twice the per-person average in 1982. The financial cost of all this stop-and-go is traffic is $87.2 billion in wasted fuel and lost productivity, or $750 per traveler.
Yes, the time America spends in traffic is forever rising. But if you're going to blame something, blame the cause, not the symptom. Our road networks move an awful lot of people, and they do so relatively inefficiently, but we've yet to come up with — and fund — a better solution. Just because you spend time in traffic doesn't mean that cars suck, nor is it the car's fault. If you're laying blame, blame our inability to solve the problem of public transport. Lost productivity and the frustrating commute has been a factor of life since cavemen traveled to hunt. If you want the world's pleasures to land on your doorstep, then stay at home and dial up a pizza, a hooker, and a taxi. (We suggest Chicago-style pepperoni, Candee K. from Philly, and Yellow.)
3. Your SUV or Your Life?
In 2005, there were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the U.S. This resulted in 2.9 million injured people and 42,636 deaths. Roughly 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in America-that's one death every 13 minutes.
Cars kill a lot of people. So do guns, fast food and ladyfolk with unclean nether regions, but you're not crucifying any of them. You want to elaborate on the point you're making here? No? OK. Fine by us.
4. They Paved Paradise
In the 20th century, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the U.S. The cost of sprawl crosses many sociological factors but here are two examples from Lutz and Fernandez:
* In 1960, 10% of commuters walked to work In 2005, it was 2.5 percent.
* Families is "sprawled-out" metropolitans areas like Houston or Phoenix spend roughly $1,300 more annually to get around than families in more compact areas.
Hey, now we're at least mentioning the crux of the problem. Sprawl was and is exacerbated by the automobile, but it wasn't caused by it. If the car were to disappear tomorrow and be replaced by magic teleportation portals in every home, things wouldn't get any better. Sprawl is bad, but manifest destiny existed before the automobile. It will, unfortunately, exist after it.
5. Car Culture vs. Eco-system
Where do I start? I could tell you about run-off, land use, air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, solid waste, and impact on wildlife but not even scratch the surface. "In the U.S. alone," adds Jessica Root, "20% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and small trucks like SUVs, contributing to climate change, pollution, and diseases like asthma."
All of this is true — we can't argue with it in any way. That said, the car as social device isn't responsible for screwing with the planet; that honor belongs to the internal combustion engine. Aim the blame at the proper target. The car isn't the evil; its most common powerplant is. Suggest something different and equally practical.
"Race car" spelled backwards is still "race car."
Hmm. Strongly worded argument. Your depth of knowledge on the subject and finer appreciation for the many technological advancements birthed by motorsport is truly staggering. Way to pick an easy, cliche-filled target and do nothing other than name-check it in a pale attempt to be funny. Now go away. Please?
Thank you, Discovery Channel greenies. That really helped us understand the automobile, and it helped us get a firm grasp on how society has been affected by its evil ways. Next time you're desperate for content, remember the distinction between disease and symptom. Also, try to stay sober.
p.s. Don't even get us started on the "nine things you can do about cars wrecking our culture" list that you published on the same page. That list begins with reading a movement book of the moment and driving a hybrid. Save our culture, my ass.
p.p.s. You stuck the following image onto your post. A gas pump nozzle? A ripped naked man? Please tell us what it means so that we may better make fun of you. The only thing that comes to mind sounds . . . painful.