Sean Paul Kelly posted a brief thing about what he misses most about Asia now that he is home. He said it's undoubtedly, "...being able to walk out my door, be it in Istanbul, Singapore or India and walk down the street to get what I want, see my neighbors, smile at strangers and stretch my legs." That's possible in a lot of heavily populated urban areas, but that's not what he's talking about. Kelly was referring to the isolation that now exists because of the automobile culture here in the United States.
A great many people made the culture of driving a topic of discussion because of the insane gas prices last year. Driving everywhere has made social interaction much more difficult. The sense of community from knowing people in your neighborhood, or even in the same building, has significantly diminished because of the amount of time spent in cars and trucks. That's obviously not true everywhere, but it's getting much more widespread over time. The phenomena of traffic isolation makes normal social interaction much more difficult. It's becoming more pronounced as new generations grow up without knowing any other way to live.
The social and cultural damage from the automobile is only one way in which it's making the world a worse place to live. It's insane that we have covered massive portions of our towns and cities in concrete. Our society has been so profoundly altered by the automobile that it means more than life. Nothing grows through concrete or cement, and the two surfaces hold heat.
Getting out of a car in the middle of a big parking lot during the hottest part of the summer is like stepping into a corner of hell where they ran out of air ducts. Any living thing that gets stranded out in the middle of a parking lot is dead for sure. Earth worms are a no-brainer, of course. They wind up crispy in a matter of minutes. Lizards could survive a little longer, but that's not saying much. Lizards, amphibians and other reptiles, while being cold blooded, will cook up deader than shit on asphalt. Birds, puppies, human babies - these are all creatures that will die if they get stuck in the middle of a hot ass parking lot.
Babies die every year. Some lady leaves her baby stranded in the middle of a parking lot. It gets so hot that even when babies survive such neglect they are likely to have brain damage, depending on the length of their stay out there in pavement hell. The forgetful parent always looks shocked and devastated. Just how stupid does one have to be to think pavement is good for life?
Cars spew noxious fumes and emissions into the air at an incredible rate. Regardless what sort of "safety controls" are applied to the internal combustion engine, the entire concept is flawed to the core from an environmental standpoint. By the time we are burning fuel in vehicles the substance has already impacted the environment at ever stage of production.
Even when oil production is not disastrous it's still not great. Offshore drilling in the United States has resulted in millions of gallons of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico and the other oceans. Oil transportation has been just as detrimental, or more so, than production. Then after the oil arrives in refineries the production of gasoline creates gigantic quantities of air pollutants. The entire downtown area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, smells like slow death because of it.
People who love the combustion engine are slow to admit such facts. They like to believe that there's nothing wrong with hundreds of millions of cars blasting pollutants into the air. If they admit the truth it means they have been wrong all along. A little ego goes a long way to perpetuating myths. In many cases specific personal debates about the environment only continue to exist because people hate to admit when they lose.
Taking all of these things into consideration, just about anyone with money still drives an automobile around. People are still sitting in slow moving traffic, or stopped altogether, running their engines as the money burns up and floats into the atmosphere. How many people don't really know their neighbors very well?. It's silly to even hypothesize they may know some of the people driving to and from work around them. They are isolated from human contact until they get to work, unless they pop into a store or stop for food, and then they're isolated until they get home.
There's a breakdown of human interaction that has gotten worse and worse. That may not be as bad as drastic climate change, but it's not really open for any debate at all. Cars have done wonders for jump starting the destruction of modern civilization. It's silly to think we could return to simpler, more trouble free times, but it's not crazy to think that we can change the present for the better.
Or you could just buy a big fucking Hummer, pay your wife Botox injections in return for stiff mouthed fellatio and scream "Yippy-kai-yay Motherfuckers!" as you jump out of a plane and destroy the world as we know it. I won't try to stop you. Somebody has to be an ignorant asshole in order for me to get laid for being sweet and attentive. And it's going to take a lot of work to repopulate this rock when the right wing survivalists are nothing but shadows on their Unabomber sheds.