Patients in any American hospital might be ill as a result of air pollution, suffering from lung issues or asthma. In the orthopedic department, patients are being treated for injuries due to car crashes, or suffering from neck, back, hip and knee issues after a lifetime of inactivity. Diabetes, hypertension, and diseases related to obesity are directly related to sedentary lifestyle as people travel in cars rather than walking or riding bikes. Cars not only make us sick, they also destroy community. The amazing variety of ways in which cars have ruined our lives is striking, and yet we have accepted it – because we’ve been duped by the industry into thinking that we can’t live without cars. “Yes, the car is still useful – for a few people it’s essential. It would make a good servant. But it has become our master, and it spoils everything it touches. It now presents us with a series of emergencies that demand an emergency response.”
Driving is ruining our lives, and triggering environmental disasters. Only drastic action will kick our dependency
‘Transport should be planned. This means a wholesale switch to safe and separate bike lanes.’ Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA
Pollution now kills three times as many people worldwide as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Remember the claims at the start of this century, projected so noisily by the billionaire press: that public money would be better spent on preventing communicable disease than on preventing climate breakdown? It turns out that the health dividend from phasing out fossil fuels is likely to have been much bigger. (Of course, there was nothing stopping us from spending money on both: it was a false dilemma.) Burning fossil fuels, according to a recent paper, is now “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”.
There are also subtler and more pervasive effects. Traffic mutes community, as the noise, danger and pollution in busy streets drive people indoors. The places in which children could play and adults could sit and talk are reserved instead for parking.
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