“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.”
-Leonardo da Vinci.
Nature is no longer of our concern, as humans – at least for a majority of humans that take part in todays environmental meltdown, which has burned (like the fuel in a combustion engine) for the past 100+ years. The modern citizen in today’s world has completely lost touch with the natural world which has groomed us, through evolution, for the past 100,000+ years. With the advent of the automobile, our current culture’s already corrupt relationship with nature reached a new level of ignorance. As a result of the ever-expanding reach of personal automobiles, the environmental health of our planet has been irreversibly altered, along with the social, financial, and political attitude of our culture.
For Americans born within the past several decades, it’s almost impossible to believe that cars, highways, and wars for oil have truly been around for only the last century or so. Roadkill is an everyday site and we are now completely desensitized by the death and destruction of wildlife, plants, and natural scenery that was once prevalent throughout the world. In fact, any remote city or town without proper roads, traffic signals and gas stations, by todays standards, may be termed ‘developing.’ Developing into what? What is it that we have developed into? Does economic development correlate with environmental degradation?
Horseless carriages, or ‘cars’ for short, have completely taken over our everyday lives. What was once a commodity is now looked at as a necessity. Everyone, it seems, has a car; or if not, they are working towards getting a car. It is virtually impossible to avoid the implications of personal car ownership; sounds, sights, smells, finances, attitudes, employment, and personal relationships are all adversely affected by the car. As an ‘advanced society’ compared to those without the technology that we currently posses, we have not advanced much from the original inception of a gas fed, steel bodied personal transport vehicle. In fact, our advancements are really more like the opposite – we are digressing from what should be our primary goal; to use technology to continually make life better, to make transport easier, to create more free time, to save money, to preserve the environment, etc.
To make room for everyones’ car, we have converted acres upon acres of what was once wilderness into parking lots, countless numbers of which have already long since been abandoned as weeds grow through the cracks in the concrete. We have streets that are too narrow for cars to drive on but are lined with parked cars. Car owners have been known to stress over parking spot availability when they come home from work. Parking spots in some congested cities can cost thousands of dollars a month; the price of which could easily pay for food/shelter for impoverished people around the world that most likely have never driven a car in the first place. We have multi million dollar parking garages. We have specialized public servants that enforce parking regulations, being sure to financially punish anyone who has violated parking policy; not to mention the police officers that pull you over while driving. We take them everywhere with us: to work, to the grocery store, to the doctor, and even to the movies sometimes. There is, however, a group of people, who have realized the extent of which we have lost control of the metaphorical car that we call life and, who would like to drive out current policies and collectively try going down a different road.
Monetarily, the cost associated with owning a car (compared with emotional cost) is astronomical when compared with other monthly expenses. Besides mortgages or rent payments, a car can easily be the most costly monthly expense in a budget. Without getting into specifics, it is universally understood there are certain financial responsibilities associated with car ownership: payments, insurance, gas, repairs, licences, registration, inspection, and routine maintenance are all variables in the equation that is car budgeting. Psychologically, there are other ways that cars can affect us; ‘will my car start in the morning? will I be able to safely drive in the snow? how much traffic will there be? whats that rattling noise? I hope I don’t get pulled over? and other similar thoughts can overtly change a persons mood considerably on a day-to-day basis.
There is no point in trying to accurately pinpoint exactly when our ancestors truly stopped caring for nature, it has happened. The current generational cycle that has been gradually sucking us farther into the oil black hole that is 2010, and beyond, started in the not-so-distant past, but it will end in the near future. I’m sure there are those who would be silly enough to argue that it was Henry Ford who started the car craze of the early 1900′s – 1950′s. There are others who could say that it started with the horse and buggy; after all, horses gave an enormous freedom and advantage over those who could not attain horse ownership. And horses, like cars, have emissions in that they shit, which pollutes the environment – why do you think a car today is still measured in horsepower? When animal’s power was harnessed by man, maybe that’s when this fiasco all began? Either way, lets just imagine that the problem started yesterday – and that today, or more importantly tomorrow, will not get any better. Traffic, smog, gas prices, accidents, and the environment will only get worse as more people denounce their relationship with nature and support the car industry. So many people feel the need to buy, and drive, vehicles that ingest increasingly limited resources, to the point where all countries are environmentally affected. But I hope that a proportionate amount of people also think about how much better our world could be if we decide to change now.
“Be the change that you want to see in the world”
— Mahatma Gandhi