There’s lots of news around at the moment about bio-fuels and electric cars. On the surface it sounds like someone’s trying to make some long overdue and necessary changes. Unfortunately, shifting fuels doesn’t solve the real problem with personal transport. Car culture.
Thanks to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster on April 20th, it’s hard to pretend that oil is a long term option for powering humanity’s needs. Just in case you missed it, there was another oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico on September 2nd, 2010. On the same day an oil tanker carrying 9 million litres of diesel ran aground in the Canadian Arctic.
However, production and consumption of oil is only part of the issue. Other problems include space, production, disposal, inactivity and land degradation. Only 10% of Australia is arable land. That means we have very limited space on which to grow food and catch rainwater. At present we’re building houses, factories, roads, parking lots and shopping malls on land which could be growing food. Where once we produced large amounts of staple foods like wheat and were exporting, we are now importers of food.
While we’re considering arable land, consider also the issues surrounding production of bio-fuels. Vulnerable nations and communities are now being pressured by greedy nations into producing ethanol rather than feeding their families. This and food price speculation is worsening a rapidly devolving situation into food production crisis.
The cost of cars puts many people in debt, which increases financial pressure and other stress levels. People travel further to work, which compounds pollution and running costs as well as limiting time they have for more productive pursuits.
In addition to the car itself, there’s all the associated costs, production and pollution problems of accessories. From batteries and tyres to cheap, nasty disposable seat covers and air fresheners, all that crap has to come from somewhere and go somewhere.
Then there’s the psychic pollution of advertising and movies that promote car ownership. Outdated and unhelpful gender stereotyping is reinforced by media. One of the foulest was that infamous ute ad which equated women with dogs.
So while it’s wonderful that people, governments and business are looking for alternatives, let’s consider real, useful alternatives rather than simply passing the buck yet again. There are still bicycles, trikes and many other alternative transport forms to explore, in addition to public transport in urban areas. That’s alternative.