They are everywhere. We do not know how to avoid it. Passenger cars are the blind alley of civilization which creates an unsustainable situation. It is not possible for every human being who can drive (let’s say 5 milliards if we do not count children) to own and freely use a car, regardless of whether the car works on steam, gasoline, gas or beetroot juice.
There were more than 3 million cars registered vehicles in Slovakia in 2018. Since 2000, the number of vehicles has risen by more than 80%. At this rate, we can expect more cars than residents in Slovakia after 2035!
However, owning a car has become the right of every citizen. In addition, repetitive and invasive advertising campaigns create a false need to own a car or replace an old one with a new one and all this is affordable to everyone thanks to credits.
But the reality is that the automotive industry is built at the expense of people, and especially at the expense of nature.
Invisible managers of Death
As you might have known, cars pollute the air. Only the production itself has a high ecological footprint (paradoxically larger for electric vehicles, see below). As a result, it is more ecological to keep your old vehicle as long as possible, even though it is more polluting than a new car, which might be „greener“, but its production will leave a huge ecological footprint.
The bigger the car, the worst for the climate. From this point of view, SUV s are ecological nonsense. Combustion of fuel into air emits a toxic substance: particulate matter (PM), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Nitrogen oxides (Nox), Carbon monoxide (CO), Sulfur dioxide (SO2). SUVs are on average 30% less efficient than a small sedan.
Air pollution contributes to number of health problems: risk of stroke, heart disease and lung cancer. World air pollution is associated with the death of more than 4, 000, 000 people a year, according to World Health Organization WHO.
As reported by WHO, Slovakia is also among the countries which exceed air pollution limits. In our country air pollution rates range from 16 to 25 micrograms of emissions per cubic meter, while according to WHO, the limit beyond which we breathe unhealthy air is 10.
However, the impact on our health is almost nothing compared to the impact on nature and the acceleration of climate change by CO2 emissions. In 2014, the vehicles produced 72% of CO2 emissions in terms of transport (civil aircraft was responsible for 13%). Overall, transport represents 20% of global CO2 emmisions.
But these are just percentages. The whole „pie“ of emissions is constantly increasing. According to ITF (International Transport Forum), emissions of global transport will increase by 60% from 2015 to 2050.
Illusion of electric cars
Electric cars? If electricity becomes common energy for vehicle propulsion, it will most likely be nothing more than a by-product of burning fossil fuels. In the moment, more than 78% of all the electric energy produced worldwide, comes from burning fossil fuels. Electricity from wind and solar power plants represent merely 4,1%. Electric cars only move polluted air outside the city. This also applies to hydrogen which is not caught by landing net. Even though, there is a lot of it in the water, we need electricity to use it.
Electric cars are much heavier because of the battery. This causes increased leakage of toxic particles into the environent from abrasion of tires, brakes and road surfaces compared to combustion cars. The production of battery generates so much of CO2 that it would be necessary to drive 50 000 to 100 000 km in an electric car to compensate CO2 emissions for a combustion car. That means to drive 15 to 30 km a day, 365 days a year, for 10 years!
The production of batteries requires cobalt. Look at the horror of cobalt extraction in Congo which represents 60% of the world´s cobalt production. Child labor is really common, diseases and premature deaths are even more common.
Except of cobalt, every electric car needs about 10 kg of scarce soil/resources. As you will read below, that is not good news for our planet…
Clean energy, dirty business
And what if we would be able to use only renewable and clean energy such as sun and wind?
Different scarce soil/resources is needed to produce windmills and solar panels. Their extraction causes catastrophic environmental and social problems.
85% of world´s supply can be found in China. By processing 1 tonne of scarce resources, we produce 2000 tons of toxic and carcinogenic waste. Every year, 10 millions tons of waste water is being generated.
The results are cities like Baotou, where is the largest mine, the city is devastated, inhabitants are sick, they are leaving their native land and the nature is polluted for a long time. Mining activities also mean deforestation, water pollution and soil contamination.
And we have not talked about lithium yet. Lithium is a material from which modern batteries are made. Lithium is not renewable and can not be recycled! 95% of lithium batteries end up in landfills. The extraction process requires a lot of water that is already scarce for the local inhabitants in the Andean regions. Bolivia, Chile and Argentina represent 75% of world´s lithium production. Moreover, the extraction process itself pollutes that little water left in the area which leads to destruction of lives of neighbouring residents living from agriculture and animal husbandry.
2 tons of metal vs. 70 kilos of meat
Even if the question regarding the fuel would be solved, a car driving across the nature is a problem in itself. A car is a 2 tonne colossus that will destroy everything that is in its way if can not break in time. Already in 1967, Bernad Charbonneau mentioned it in a book L’hommauto (Automan):
„A vehicle with wheels and engines eliminates life wherever it goes“
To fully understand the meaning of what Bernard Charbonneau wanted to say, you can watch the following video:
The cars also eliminate life in form of concreting/ asphalting the soil. Here some concrete shoreline, there some new parking lot, there a new highway… The developers build huge shopping malls on the periphery of cities (IKEA, AVION, Bory Mall, Hornach and etc.) which require even bigger parking lots. Aggresive online platforms such as Amazon build enornous warehouses (Sereď). Besides building over fertile land, the local small brick-and-mortar shops in the center are choking economically. That means, often we have to go by car far from the center to get what was once buyable in the center.
As a result, part of the population has become slaves to cars, while the other part of the population that walks, cycles or rides horses must be very careful not to be hit by a car.
This results in double house arrest. On the one hand, nation of cars conquering more and more space and on the other hand, human beings and the living world.
Do not buy a car.
Avoid supermarkets and shopping malls. Support small local brick-and-mortar stores.
Walk or bike for short distances.
If you do not want to own a bicycle, you can rent one for little money.
Use public transportation.
Use car-sharing opportunities.
If you really need to buy a car, buy a used one.
If you already have a car, use it as long as possible, until it can be repaired. Try to also drive less. If you really need to buy a new car, buy the simplest and smallest one, and without too many of electronics.
Support politicians who favour pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation.
For the bravest ones: block car factories, cover advertisements, e.g. protest against automobile shows.