Yesterday I overheard a conversation between two teenage boys, both about 16 years of age. They were sitting at a table, one was reading a newspaper and the other was playing a game on an iPhone.
Boy A (reading newspaper): Oh, the new fiat Punto is coming out.
Boy B: I don’t like cars.
Boy A: I do
Boy B: Why?
Boy A: Because cars destroy the planet.
This last statement was uttered in a very matter-of-fact manner, as if it was an obvious truth. I saw nothing to indicate that he was being ironic or sarcastic, he was sincerely stating (what he believes to be) a fact. I think what boy B meant when he said “I do” was “I am interested in cars”. Likewise boy A really meant “I’m not interested in cars”. I got the impression that boy A meant he’s not interested in cars in the sense of not being impressed by them or interested in how they work. Boy B, however, meant something very different. He meant that he is interested in cars in the same way the police are interested in crime. He’s concerned about them because he thinks being disinterested in or impartial about them would be morally wrong. We may reasonably deduce he believes the planet needs saving, that it is in serious and immediate danger, and therefore that he believes it is only right to be concerned about cars.
The question is how did he arrive at the conviction that cars are destroying the planet? Well, the three major influences on any individual’s life today are: parents, state education, and the media. I was being indoctrinated into environmentalism back in 1991 in primary school (CFS’s were destroying the planet back then), so I think it’s safe to assume he was taught this belief at both primary and secondary school and even college (which he currently attends). There’s absolutely no doubt he is being regularly exposed to all manner of environmentalism in the media. Catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is an established ‘fact’ in the minds of all those in the mainstream media and so he is having his conviction that cars are destroying the planet reinforced by ‘the world’ on a daily basis. That leaves his parents. The odds are they too believe that cars are destroying the planet and have simply passed on this belief to their son as a ‘fact’.
What’s sad about this boy’s perspective on cars is that it completely ignores the enormous social and economic benefits the invention and development of the automobile has brought and continues to bring to society. The steam engine mobilised industry, but the automobile mobilised people and radically changed society for the better. The car has enabled a higher degree of freedom and independence to individuals. People can now travel to anywhere quickly, safely and easily, which means people can work and shop in places that are poorly served by public transport. This freedom of movement for individuals and the ability to move vast quantities of goods over large distances quickly – i.e. mass transport – has fuelled enormous economic growth worldwide and raised everyone’s standard of living. Without mass transport all of the furniture, appliances and gadgets in our homes would have no way of being delivered to us in anything like a timely manner or as cheaply. We would all be hiking to our nearest railway station and carrying sofas and computers on our backs (or loading up a horse and cart with them) without lorries to delivery them to our homes or cars to pick them up in. Without heavy goods vehicles zipping up and down motorways throughout the night supermarkets wouldn’t be able to provide us with anything like the variety of fresh and frozen food they can today. Almost every aspect of the standard of living we enjoy today depends on the technology of automobiles to some degree.
The argument that cars are destroying the planet is a corollary of the larger argument that catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is real and is happening. The latter is by no means so well-evidenced that it is beyond debate, as most people believe it to be. On the contrary, the so-called evidence is flimsy at best. For the evidence against catastrophic anthropogenic climate change read my previous post ‘Climate Of Deception’. Based on the evidence most people should, at the very least, be adopting a sceptical or neutral position on catastrophic man-made climate change and not mindlessly adopting some prescribed arbitrary lifestyle changes just because Al Gore tells them to. And they certainly shouldn’t be sanctioning any government actions designed to ‘save the planet’ because this will almost certainly result in us reducing our own standard of living whilst having to pay for the privilege of doing so.
Whilst it is perverse and rather tragic for a human being to condemn one of the technologies that enables many of the aspects of their current standard of living it is neither harmful to others nor a moral issue so long as the only action they take is to abstain from using that technology themselves. If they don’t want to use a car or trade with companies that use mass transport, that’s entirely up to them and I wouldn’t dream of stopping them from doing so. However, that’s not what modern environmental activism is about; it’s about lobbying the government to force businesses and other people to adopt the same behavioural changes, or at the very least make them pay through the nose for continuing to do as they wish. That is a moral issue. Forcing others to comply with your beliefs is wrong and using force (in the form of government action) is always the wrong way to go about achieving any goal, however noble or vital one believes it to be for humanity.
Cars aren’t destroying the planet, they are simply a technology that has led to huge increases in productivity and freedom of movement for all, which is a wonderful thing. And the argument that man-made climate change is going to cause an environmental catastrophe in a few generations simply isn’t supported by the facts of reality. Over the coming several decades I’m sure the catastrophic man-made climate change argument will gradually lose all credibility as reality plays out and nothing more terrible happens than people get a bit chillier. Actually, this is already starting to happen. Government scientists and lobbying environmentalists have been struggling to explain why over the last several years the world has been getting cooler, not warmer. This is surely why the war cry of ‘global warming’ has been substituted for ‘climate change’. To point to the sky and cry ‘global warming!’ seems patently absurd when people are freezing their bits off. However, crying ‘climate change!’ every time the weather changes or a storm hits anywhere in the world is so vague as to be far too much effort for most people to bother trying to deny.
I think what underlies all of this is the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that suggests that a ‘solution’ generally involves banning something rather than tackling underlying issues and handling them bit by bit. Fact is that we have made great strides since the seventies: cleaner fuel, unleaded gasoline, more efficient engines and body designs, more efficient manufacturing, better (straighter and less hilly) roads and so on.
That’s a good point. Thanks for that.