Mar 10, 2009
As a dominant form of transportation, the automobile is dead. So is GM, which now stands for Gone Mad.
But the larger picture says that the financial crisis now enveloping
the world is grounded in the transition from the automobile---and the
fossils that fuel it---to a brave renewable world of reborn mass
transit and green power.
If GM lives in any form, it must be owned and operated by its workers and the public.
But the larger transition is epic and global, based on a simple
structural reality: the passenger car is obsolete. Auto sales have
plummeted not merely because of a bad economy, but because the
technology no longer makes sense.
Franklin Roosevelt took GM over in 1943-5 to make the hardware
to beat the Nazis. Barack Obama should now do the same to beat climate
Make streetcars, not passenger cars.
Hybrids are too little, too late, with problems of their own.
Solar-powered electric cars will help phase out the gas guzzlers.
But in the long run, the automobile itself needs to be dismantled and re-cycled, not retooled or rebuilt.
Cars still kill 40,000 Americans/year, and thousands more worldwide. No
matter how much less gas each may burn, they all consume unsustainable
resources to manufacture, operate and terminate.
We need to dig up roads, not build more. We need rails and coaches,
bio-diesel buses and self-propelled trolleys, Solartopian super-trains
and in-town people movers, not to mention windmills, solar panels, wave
generators and geothermal piping.
In America's corporate-conceived "love affair with the automobile," our
first spouse---mass transit---was murdered. Now the unsustainable
obsolescence of the private passenger car is collapsing a global
financial system built on the illusion of its constant growth.
Mother Earth can't sustain the old four-wheeled carry-one-person-around-the-block paradigm, be it hybrid, electric or otherwise.
If the automobile and its attendant freeways continue to metastasize in
India, China and Africa as they did in the 20th Century United States,
we are doomed.
Our true challenge is to envision, engineer and build a Solartopian
transportation system that moves people and things cleanly around a
crowded planet with diminishing resources and no margin for ecological
For that we need every cent and brain cell devoted to what's new and works, not what's failed and could kill us all.
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