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Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance


Guest Editorial
The Car's Centennial Is No Reason to Celebrate

by Jane Holtz Kay

The 100th birthday bash had its moments. Some were myopic, some surreal. Motown celebrated the anniversary of the automobile with a centennial gala and Michigan raised its speed limit in honor of the event. Anniversary publications and the automakers' upbeat public television series chirped cheery messages, while Atlanta offered a car parade, as if to herald the traffic jams of its Olympics.

All the same, the car's anniversary fever was something less than contagious. At no time in the century since the Duryea Brothers rolled 13 "motor wagons" onto the streets of Springfield in 1896 could a fete have fallen flatter. Across the American motorscape, the spark plugs are dirty, the tires are flat and the "mechanical pet," as Life put it in its special anniversary promotion, has enslaved its master.

Assaulted by the $20,000 average sticker shock of a new car, "freedom of the road" has taken on a new irony. Never have Americans suffered more from the kingdom of the car, nor been more in servitude to it. Buying approximately 1 million motor vehicles a month, we have doubled traffic on the nation's roads in the last two decades. Today, the two or three cars owned by half of all American families gridlock our lives and landscape.

The impact of congestion, however, has gone far beyond the commute that made rush hour the opposite of its name. We use a scant 22 percent of our vehicle-miles to take us to the office. Vacation travel, the other reason we give for owning this pricey vehicle, devours a scant eight percent of our journeys.

In fact, two-thirds of the miles we drive go to chauffeuring and consuming by car. Car bonding? Hardly.

For all the $93 billion spent per year in federal, state and local funds, the nation's highway infrastructure is faltering, demanding repaving at an average $30 million a mile. Los Angeles' Century Freeway came in at $2.2 billion, and the current Central Artery project in Boston around $10 billion. Some free ride.

Yet, perhaps I should be cheeringócheering that we have physically, emotionally, and geographically reached gridlock; cheering that a new constituency of activists is trying to release us from the immobility of a car-dependent world. Public transportation wins new fans. Even in the midst of budget-whacking, the recognition of Amtrak's essentiality gains grassroots advocates.

Greenways and trails for bikes and walking have proliferated. "Traffic calming," curbing the car by narrowing and greening urban and suburban streets, is spreading. Meanwhile, planners promote the density and enriched urban cores that make walking and transit viable.

Surprisingly, too, not everyone deplored raising gas taxes. In the recent skirmish at the pump, some motorists shrugged or nodded. Transportation economists compared rates here with Europe's $5 a gallon, which supports a more balanced system.

It isn't easy to effect, or even perceive, the revolution needed to reverse auto-dependency. But it is not impossible. The signs are there. And if the spurious celebration for the wonder days of driving does nothing else, it could encourage a recognition of the true state of our late motor age. At the least, it should encourage some harassed skeptics to honk their horns for footpower, not horsepower; for a balanced, human mobility, not motorized immobility.

Jane Holtz Kay, architecture critic of The Nation, wrote Lost Boston. Her Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take it Back will be published by Crown in February.



Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.


Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

Culture Change mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit torganization.