Unsafe at Any Price: Building the New 'People's Car'

We said about the Tata Nano: "Henry Ford unleashed a revolution that changed our world and gave us mobility, but at what price. Now we get to watch the rerun." Brendan Smith, Tim Costello and Jeremy Brecher write at CommonDreams and report all the negative coverage from around the world, but were forced to admit "Of course there is deep hypocrisy in developed countries criticizing the driving habits of the developing world." They quote Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute:

remember who has driven the planet to the edge of the climate abyss. People in Western countries and Japan—less than 15 percent of the world's population—own two-thirds of all passenger and commercial motor vehicles in the world. Although they are rapidly expanding their fleets, India and China, with a third of the world's population, so far account for only about 5 percent of vehicles. In 2005, China's ratio of motor vehicles to population was at about the level the United States had reached some 90 years earlier. India's ratio is less than half that of China.

They come to the inevitable conclusion:

The original people's car

Today, the real task is not to create a "people's car" but a "people's transport system". Addressing the climate crisis requires entirely new approaches to moving people and goods—one not based on cars and trucks. The US created an automobile culture during the 20th century at enormous long term costs. The automobile brings with it not just greenhouse gas emissions but an entire infrastructure that is devastating to the social and natural environment—roads, the oil industry, urban congestion, and suburban sprawl. It's a system the US and other rich countries now must transform and one which the developing world can still avoid."

They conclude:

Public policies and new technologies should be directed at developing the least polluting mode of transport at each scale of distance. That means promoting walking and biking, especially in cities; building new and better public transit systems; and revitalizing intercity rail for both passengers and freight.

Shifting to a climate friendly transportation system is daunting task. But there is a big payoff and not just in cleaner air: in a world in need of decent jobs, it is a challenge that can provide millions of people throughout the world with employment for decades to come. ::Commondreams


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