By Gary Farmer
Traffic deaths surged last year as drivers racked up more miles behind the wheel than ever before, a result of an improved economy and lower gas prices, according to preliminary government data released Friday here in the U.S.
That was the leading sentence in a LA Times story this week.
I just drove across the continent for my latest trip home from Santa Fe, New Mexico to the Six Nations along the Grand River. A trip of some 5,000 miles. Now that was a lot of emissions! It was also the year in which Americans drove 3.1 trillion miles. More than ever before.
We love our “war ponies”, says Philbert when referring to his beaten down 66’ Buick Wildcat in the Native American film classic, Powwow Highway. Of course, we had no problem with the transition of horse to car — we just didn’t know what to do with ‘em after we was done with ‘em, so we just left ‘em in the yard — like a pony.
In fact, here in North America many cities were built around the notion of cars. No bigger car cities than Los Angeles, CA or Phoenix, AZ, where if you don’t drive 20 mph over the speed limit you’re harassed by drivers, horns blowing as they race past with middle fingers raised like old glory. The world is faster paced than ever before.
I was born at the end of the American industrial age. A post World War II time of prosperity that soon became the beginning of endless wars. I didn’t have a choice in the matter to be born into this laborious struggle to survive. In 1950 being a soldier was how you got your start in life; you could learn a trade. Indians were the migrant workers of this industrial age. My father and my father’s father built America — as did all the immigrant families that flowed to North America.
You could say that children today are born into the age of global communication. IBM and Mac computers with software for every notion. Social media at nausea: FB, twitter, snapchat, war games galore — instant gratification. The commodification and consumption of your own personal life. I would say this creates a throw away life.
But from the ‘50s on so much of what we helped to create is a problem today in the staggering amount of pollution — all the cancer in our bodies is from this age of industrial debauchery. The damming of waterways and flooding of land, the quest for wealth in minerals, coal, oil, diamonds and rare earth elements used in the manufacture of computer components has enormous impact on all our lives. But as long as we had the latest model car or any moving vehicle that gave us some feeling of freedom everything was alright. Everybody was smoking and drinking like there was no tomorrow. Well tomorrow is now.
Now we recognize these health risks. We always learn about the health implications after the fact. Like we won’t know the impact of the age of communication till 20 plus years down the road. “Yeah, she had a cellphone to her ear her whole life!” or, “He never went outside, only on that computer, he just lost touch with the natural world”. This is disease.
The automobile, a 20th century invention — the ultimate industrial age product with the gas/diesel combustion engine is one the many problems.
Recently in England they began attempting to outlaw any cars 1995 or older. So if you are driving a car 1995 or older you are breaking the law and you’ll be fined. Imagine that law on Six Nations today? That’d be half of us — we still leave our cars idling while we go visit or drop off the kids. Leave the pony idling and leak CO2 into the atmosphere.
A large and impressive group of scientists signed a letter to U.S. Congress recently. This included the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), whose CEO, Rush Holt, is a former congressman from New Jersey and a physicist by training, as well as the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and American Chemical Society and 15 other organizations including meteorologists — the weatherman.
“Climate change is real and happening now, and the United States urgently needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Holt said in a statement.
“We must not delay, ignore the evidence, or be fearful of the challenge. America has provided global leadership to successfully confront many environmental problems, from acid rain to the ozone hole, and we can do it again. We owe no less to future generations.”
Cars that lack such systems will be targeted for being lawless — and unsafe. Since it will be economically and otherwise unfeasible to retrofit older cars with this stuff — just like modern anti-pollution equipment — the result will be a very effective indirect ban on older cars. It’s inevitable.
Naturally, there is not too much political will to do this — it’d be worse than trying to take people’s guns away cause they’re shooting each other too much. But it’s becoming obvious that we are going have to change in the near future as world citizens, as individuals, or we’ll simply die off.
We need to become the change that is needed and that’s hard to imagine living on the economic fault line of no job, no car, no phone in your ear, no food to eat unless we learn to self sustain. It’s individual leadership not government that’s going to protect us when we are so addicted to profit and bottom line mentality to stop. It’s going to be up to us to make it all better. What are each of us prepared to do?