Saturday, October 3, 2009

World Car-Free Day

An international organization dedicated to a car-free world has declared September 22 World Carfree Day. Although I would agree that it is a good idea to periodically stop and rethink our life styles choices and priorities, it is important when doing so to keep the whole context in mind. Those of us wealthy enough to afford alternatives--either in terms of time or money-- should not be so quick to condemn certain items or activities as mere convenience or luxury. This point is nicely made by the editorial excerpted below.

Cars can provide the freedom and flexibility required to achieve essential goals, such as making a job accessible, or the ability to live where housing is affordable. They are efficient in conserving the most precious and scarce "commodity" we have: our time. Some of us are wealthy enough to forgo that efficiency--but it is unfair, unkind and short-sighted to impose that choice on others.

by Sam Kazman, 9/29/09 the San Fransisco Examiner

It is easy to forget the incredibly liberating nature of the automobile. In the 1910s-1920s the car ended the crushing isolation of rural life. In 1955-56, it enabled black people to boycott the segregated buses of Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1970s-1980s, it gave mothers the ability to enter the job market while still getting their kids to day care and putting food on the table. Today, the car allows new immigrants to enter the American mainstream by vastly expanding their choices of where to work and where to live....

Being able to get around freely is not some superficial desire that can be dismissed as the product of an allegedly car-addicted Western culture....The car, it appears, satisfies a pretty basic human need.

A philosophy professor who emigrated here from Eastern Europe once commented on Car-Free Day by noting that, given his time behind the Iron Curtain, he’d already endured enough car-free decades.

Wealth is not the problem. Wealth, and freedom, are the solutions.


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