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Your Car Will Not Save Your Planet

10:22 AM EST on January 14, 2010

Today on the Streetsblog Network, member blog Riding in Riverside sets out to explode the myth of the "wundercar" -- a vehicle powered by sustainable fuels that will allow us to hold onto our driving lifestyle and all its accoutrements, while saving the planet and feeling "green."

That kind of futuristic fantasy isn't going to solve our problems, writes the blog's Justin Nelson. The answer, he argues, lies instead in older patterns of development and mobility:

3936973020_bc1a9152e6.jpgThis is not an environmental silver bullet. (Photo: bindermichi via Flickr)

[E]ven if we were to devise a perfect car, one made out of recycled tiresand printer paper, one that harnesses photosynthesis to not only becarbon-neutral, but actually make energy from atmospheric C02, even ifwe could make a car with no direct environmental impact, it would stillbe an environmental and social disaster. Our waterways are contaminatedby engine fluids and lubricants that run off of road surfaces. Ournatural groundwater tables are falling because rainwater is unable topenetrate pavement.

Cars still allow sprawling development that eats upwild lands and spits out bland suburbia. Species' ranges in the fewprecious areas of wilderness that we have are disrupted by highways. Wewould still live in a society where we shut ourselves off from oneanother in our own private boxes, promoting inequality and a lack ofrespect for shared humanity. We would still leave our inner cities todangle. Our streets would still be unsafe places for children to play,and we would still kill thousands every year in automobile crashes.Alternative fuels are, on a perfect day, a solution to only a few ofthe myriad problems that cars cause.

On the other hand, insteadof pursuing unproven technologies in a desperate last-ditch attempt tohang on to the way of life we've been living for the last 50 or soyears, why don't we look ahead and try to build a better world... Instead of a risky gamble to maintain a failinglifestyle, we should spend our resources on forging a bright futurebased around principles of city-building as old as cities themselves.

Also today on the network: The WashCycle on the importance of snow removal if bikes are to be useful as transportation. Next Stop STL on the annoyance of loud music on public transit. And The Naked City on the growing debate over the megaregions concept.

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