In my last post, I argued that against common belief driving your car can be worse for the environment than taking the plane. But there’s more to it than that. Our current usage patterns of automobiles, especially in urban areas, literally cause a ‘cartastrophe’ (portmanteau from ‘car’ and ‘catastrophe’).
Here’s a though experiment: let’s take the viewpoint of the Disney movie ‘Cars’ and assume that cars are like human beings. If this would be the case, I would argue that the way we use automobiles is not only bad for the environment but also for the automobiles themselves. Although an accurate diagnosis is yet to be made by a professional psychologist, there are several indications that most of our cars (like probably some of their owners) suffer from a severe depression. And here are five reasons why this is most likely the case:
1) Our cars are lonely
Most time of the day, cars are parked in a parking space and guess what they do there? Nothing but waiting for their owners (or sometimes a thief) to go for a ride. In fact, cars are left alone for about 23 hours per day, no matter where they ‘live’. Isn’t that sad? Shouldn’t we pay more attention to our set of wheels? Car-sharing could be a solution to this loneliness if we don’t mind that the car doesn’t solely belong to us.
2) Our cars feel empty
In contrast to most of their peers, such as buses, trains and planes, cars are only occupied up to 65% of their maximum capacity. While most cars generously offer us 4 or 5 seats, there are only 1 or 2 persons on average who make use of this offer. Pitiful, isn’t it?
3) Our cars suffer from obesity
Let’s be honest: cars are fat. And the majority of them is still gaining more and more weight (although there also seem to be positive examples). Several activists have demonstrated this problem, like here or here. Yet, we refuse to help and even encourage cars to become obese by buying more and more SUVs. This can’t be healthy in the long run…
4) Our cars feel left behind
Imagine you are a luxury car with a lot of horsepower under the hood. It’s rush hour and you get stuck in a traffic jam between all those primitive automobiles. As if that were not derogative enough, you also notice that the tram has its own lane, that the bus has its own lane and that there’s even a separate lane for bicycles next to you. What’s even worse: they easily pass you and your automobile fellows as if you wouldn’t exist. Indeed, public transport and even bikes are often faster in urban areas than the average car.
5) Our cars feel (and are) inefficient
It must be really depressing to be a car. Because of their obesity and emptiness, cars are very energy inefficient. No matter if it’s walking, cycling, taking the bus, train or tram, almost everything consumes several times less energy per distance traveled than cars. That’s why our beloved automobiles are mobbed by scientists, activists and even museums.
We should put an end to all that! If we use our cars more often, share them with others, give slimmer and healthier specimen a chance or do not buy a car in the first place in case we aren’t able to take care of them properly, we can protect both our rides and the environment.
Good stuff Matthias!