Electric Cars and Me
Electric cars may not be the perfect solution to our environmental problems, but they are the next best thing....
I've always been green, not out of any ideology, that's just how I am. I've always recycled stuff, been vegetarian, used holistic medicine, practised yoga....yes, you know the type. But I've had fun too, I promise! Great fun!
Back when I was young single and free, as well as being green I never wanted a car. I didn't dislike cars. I just didn't feel I had to have a car then. Buying anything that large would have felt like an encumbrance, tying me down. It would have felt like commitment, having to stay in one place. In fact, I lived for many years without a car and travelled the world by train, bike and lifts in other folk's cars.
I remember being invited to a reading for the launch of Heathcote William's book Autogeddon.
Heathcote arrived up on the train from Cornwall, with his tweeds and wild hair, every bit the outsider-writer.
The anti-car theme of Autogeddon fitted in with the ideas I was exploring at the time. Heathcote's reading of his own work was incredibly moving. His was such a true voice. An outsider's voice. I couldn't disagree with his take on cars.
And yet, it seemed there was something missing. A context. The problems of cars could not be tackled in isolation. Giving up driving was not going to be the solution. Cars had spread out into every area of life, changing everything---the structures of society, of work, of the built environment. To eliminate the car without changing everything else back to the way things were before cars, was a non-runner.
This didn't take away from Heathcote's words. A writer's job is to bear witness, to tell the truth, not to come up with solutions. Afterwards, I read Autogeddon and felt a deep sense of loss and sadness, for the terrible price that humanity has paid in order to drive our cars and how they have altered our world so irreparably.
And I knew that my non-committed, carefree days were drawing to a close and Real Life beckoned. Soon I would be joining those droves of drivers, because I couldn't change the world back to horse-drawn carriages and I had to survive in this world, the world designed for drivers....I was about to get married, have a baby and 'settle down' and my free-spirited days of trekking around the world, jumping on buses, trains and planes and hitchiking lifts were coming to an end. My baby would force me to stay in one place and have a regular routine, and income!
Living without cars is possible for some of us who choose alternative lifestyles, or who, like Heathcote, don't have the rough-and-tumble, helter-skelter routine, of a house full of kids and are wealthy and privileged enough not to be trapped in commuter-world. Yes, I look back nostalgically on my car-free life as one of privilege.
Now, I'm part of the boring fabric of mainstream society again, living the suburban life, with a kid and a career to look after, taxes to pay, and very little time for walking, or waiting for buses, or circuitous trains, or cycling (far too dangerous as an everyday mode of transport where kids are involved!)
Now, life without a car is UNTHINKABLE! For me, as for most people it's simply unviable. I'm a Mom! And as any parent knows, the minute your little darlings come into the world, messing around with public transport is a joke. Kids need to be brought places. Lots of places. All over the place! Not necessarily on bus routes! Our built environment and our life-structure nowadays requires that cars are a necessity for a functioning life, not a luxury.
There are limits on what I can do to make a better world. I cannot alter the way our society has developed. To survive in this world, I need to drive. Given that, the next best thing I can do is to drive electric.
I haven't stopped caring about the environment and wishing the U.S. would join the rest of the world and sign up to the Kyoto protocol. But I have to live in the world as it is and for that I need to be able to drive. And I enjoy driving.
I am so happy that electric cars are now a real option for me and others like me. We don't have to go back to the last century to be green. We don't have to feel guilty about our need to drive. And our love of it! We can drive electric cars.
Green, electric cars solve some of the problems outlined in Autogeddon. Especially low-speed NEV's, which are much more pedestrian and community-friendly than gas cars.
Of course electric cars don't solve all of the problems of The Car and they are not the perfect solution. But, unless we rebuild our social infrastructure, our work infrastructure and our physical infrastructure, most of us will still need some sort of car to live in today's world.
An electric car is the best solution, or the least worst solution, I can live with. It is a compromise. Probably not one that Heathcote would approve of. But its one that I can live with.
And it's not nearly Autogeddon!
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They're clean!They're green!
They're the wonderful electric car machines!