Your Car Will Not Save Your Planet

Today on the Streetsblog Network, member blog Riding in Riverside sets out to explode the myth of the "wundercar" — a vehicle powered by sustainable fuels that will allow us to hold onto our driving lifestyle and all its accoutrements, while saving the planet and feeling "green."

That kind of futuristic fantasy isn’t going to solve our problems, writes the blog’s Justin Nelson. The answer, he argues, lies instead in older patterns of development and mobility:

3936973020_bc1a9152e6.jpgThis is not an environmental silver bullet. (Photo: bindermichi via Flickr)

[E]ven if we were to devise a perfect car, one made out of recycled tires
and printer paper, one that harnesses photosynthesis to not only be
carbon-neutral, but actually make energy from atmospheric C02, even if
we could make a car with no direct environmental impact, it would still
be an environmental and social disaster. Our waterways are contaminated
by engine fluids and lubricants that run off of road surfaces. Our
natural groundwater tables are falling because rainwater is unable to
penetrate pavement.

Cars still allow sprawling development that eats up
wild lands and spits out bland suburbia. Species’ ranges in the few
precious areas of wilderness that we have are disrupted by highways. We
would still live in a society where we shut ourselves off from one
another in our own private boxes, promoting inequality and a lack of
respect for shared humanity. We would still leave our inner cities to
dangle. Our streets would still be unsafe places for children to play,
and we would still kill thousands every year in automobile crashes.
Alternative fuels are, on a perfect day, a solution to only a few of
the myriad problems that cars cause.

On the other hand, instead
of pursuing unproven technologies in a desperate last-ditch attempt to
hang on to the way of life we’ve been living for the last 50 or so
years, why don’t we look ahead and try to build a better world.… Instead of a risky gamble to maintain a failing
lifestyle, we should spend our resources on forging a bright future
based around principles of city-building as old as cities themselves.

Also today on the network: The WashCycle on the importance of snow removal if bikes are to be useful as transportation. Next Stop STL on the annoyance of loud music on public transit. And The Naked City on the growing debate over the megaregions concept.

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