Monday, 26 November 2007

Cars, Tar Sands, and Traffic Tragedies: Part of Our Urban Crisis

Elizabeth Kolbert has had two good stories about our petroleum madness in recent issues of The New Yorker. The first, “Unconventional Crude,” is a muck-raking look at the tar sands development in Alberta and the second is "Running on Fumes,” a review of two books about just how problematic the desire for private automobiles among the growing middle classes of India and China is going to be. Once again she shows us the severity of our problems as a world society, and while not offering solutions, shows pathways which might be worth following in our collective march toward either extinction or a better organized life.

Somehow we are going to have to get out of our cars, but it’s not going to be easy. Certainly the young—many of whose parents moved out of the city toward “better” suburban areas for their sake—are sorely tempted by the car cult. Two accidents in Canada in the last few weeks underscore this problem. The first was the death near Montreal of little Bianca Leduc, struck down in her babysitter’s yard by two guys horsing around in cars. The second involved three teenagers, none of whom were old enough to drive legally. Two were killed in the crash of a car driven by a 14 year old who had just legally bought the car. Both accidents occurred in the far fringes of suburbia, where there is little or no public transit.

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