Another collection of gems — as usual — at

Alex Steffens muses about The Kind of Problem an Automobile Is: The
other day I was talking with a friend about the ecological problems
caused by the car, and the phrase popped out of my mouth, ‘The solution
to the problem of the auto won’t be found under its hood.’

Exactly. A perfect demonstration that systems problems can’t be solved
with technical fixes. The problem is not that our automobiles suck
increasingly expensive ancient fluids from unstable, far-away lands;
and it’s not that they transform those fluids into chemicals that are
toxic in the lungs of living systems and perturbing to the dynamics of
plantary climate. (It does include both those, and tech fixes that
mitigate them are certainly welcome.)

It’s about the kind of cities we build,
Steffen concludes — and that’s closer to the point. Our urban patterns
enforce a reciprocal dependency on the automobile, rendering modern
life nearly impossible without continuing to pave over living
landscapes —  eliminating both their productive capacity and
their water capturing abilties — and providing single largest killer
of people under 30 in the US. (Cars kill more people than guns in the US; pharmaceuticals may kill twice as many.)

Bill Ford recognized this in a striking speech to the Global Reporting Initiative
a few years ago. Maybe, he mused, we’re not really in the vehicle
business; maybe we’re really in the mobility business. Great perception
to hear from the CEO of a major auto manufacturer — a step in the
right direction, but a step not far enough. Maybe we really need them
to be in the access business — or the urban planning business
(something that Swedish transport company ASG (now a part of DHL) started looking at nearly ten years ago).

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