A car-free solution to factory closures?

Monday, 23rd February 2009 at 9:00 UTC 3 comments

I was watching News 24 on Saturday (not for long, I should add) and happened upon an interview with a representative of Friends of the Earth. I was appalled by what the FOE representative had to say: the solution to car industry woes is to build more cars, and make them a bit nicer. What are they thinking? Aren’t they missing the real opportunity?To say that the solution is for the car industry to embrace a new set of principles in car design is to say that the car will always be with us, that we need it, and that its dominance will remain in a post-Climate Change society. I know some people will need them, especially health workers. But the vast majority should just get on their bikes and move closer to their work places.

These factories, and their workers, could be redeployed into building wind turbines and other renewable technology, and yet our friend at FOE seems unable to be see past the task of rebuilding the car industry, as if it always was and always will be.

Cars emit greenhouse gases. They waste space. They segregate our communities, isolate us from each other. If I wanted to win right wing appeal, I’d probably accuse them of obesity! They might make it possible for those who can afford them to move quickly and “freely” (until they have no where to park within a mile of where they’re heading) but they have clear downsides, and a time like a recession is a brilliant time for a rethinking of values like these. Can’t we make something more generally useful?

To say that people should replace their cars with something a bit more economical, a bit less fuel-guzzling, misses the point: it takes a huge amount of oil simply to make a car. Making a car smaller doesn’t necessarily mean it contains substantially less steel, even if it contains much less air. The same components must be manufactured, the same strength of bodywork must be created. And when cars move, they use oil. They would probably still use it if they ran on hydrogen cells (or coal, which would be a regression).

Replacing our cars is something we can do to reduce emissions by maybe 20%. Getting rid of many of them will help us make the 90% reductions we need. Friends of the Earth should be ashamed to be making such cowardly, normativistic, pro-car statements at a time when only the bus, the bicycle and the determination to live and act locally can really save the planet. //Rant Over…

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Economics, Sustainability, Technology, Workers.

The Unmentionable Population Debate Taking Justice to Heart

3 Comments Add your own

  • […] Graham’s Grumbles added an interesting post on A car-free solution to factory closures?Here’s a small excerptI was watching News 24 on Saturday (not for long, I should add) and happened upon an interview with a representative of Friends of the Earth. I was appalled by what the FOE representative had to say: the solution to car industry woes is to build more cars, and make them a bit nicer. What are they thinking? Aren’t they missing the real opportunity? To say that the solution is for the car industry to embrace a new set of principles in car design is to say that the car will always be with us, that […]

    Reply
  • 2. Junius  |  Monday, 23rd February 2009 at 14:18 UTC

    “But the vast majority should just get on their bikes and move closer to their work places.”

    Unless you’re disabled*.

    Or need it for other things (such as transporting children).

    Or if you live too far from your workplace and can’t afford to move.

    Or if you are car-pooling with others.

    Or can’t access public transport.

    (* My mother, for example, is disabled. While she can use her legs well enough to walk short distances and to drive, serious walking – let alone cycling – would be impossible. This, incidentally, is one of my concerns with the movements to declare certain streets pedestrian-only – while some road users may be simply lazy, for others, it is their only way of getting into town, and pedestrianisation would seriously restrict or outright prevent their access to certain parts of the city. But I digress.)

    While I don’t disagree with the general point that a reduction in car use would be a good thing, you seem to be placing the blame squarely on the car users themselves with little regard for the wider social issues such as the above – essentially, the reasons people are pressed towards car use in the first place.

    Also, what does “normativistic” mean?

    On another note, the following may be of interest: http://libcom.org/history/1976-the-fight-for-useful-work-at-lucas-aerospace

    History of how arms company workers struggled against closure and for a change in their work from weapons manufacture to socially useful production.

    In the 1970s workers at the Lucas Aerospace Company in Britain set out to defeat the bosses plans to axe jobs. They produced their own alternative “Corporate Plan” for the company’s future. In doing so they attacked some of the underlying priorities of capitalism. Their proposals were radical, arguing for an end to the wasteful production of military goods and for people’s needs to be put before the owners’ profits.

    Reply
  • 3. Greg  |  Friday, 27th February 2009 at 22:54 UTC

    Talking of coal cars, did you know people experiemented with steam cars early on? The main problem was that you had to leave some hours for your car to get up to pressure in the morning.

    Junius, I’m sorry to hear about your mum but I’m sure Graham would have allowed for disabled people anyway, they’re one of those obvious exceptions to any rule like this that hardly even needs to be mentioned. As for your point about living to far from your workplace and especially the one about transporting children, i’m less convinced. The fact is, we need to restructure both society and our own personal expectations of life, to move them away from being shaped around mass car culture, because ultimately it’s a culture of death. As for problems with public transport, I’m frequently amazed at the number of people who can’t even use a train properly and for minimum cost, because they think it should be something that, unlike car use, requires absolutely no learning at all. This makes me sceptical of some of the claims about bad public transoprt.

    Reply

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