Re-imagining our societies 8: Car-free or not?


Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into the future so that we can take the next step… If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.
Ivan Illich

If we are to cope with climate change a high priority, we must be able to get rid of all spending which has a carbon polluting effect.

In my last piece “Towards a car-free UK” I suggested that owning and using cars in the UK must be seen to be antisocial.  Like smoking and killing people.

All cars, not just those driven by carbon fuels, spoil our daily lives.  They have created and perpetuate a divided society – anti-co-operative, accident-threatening and unhealthy. 

If you see cars as essential to your life-style, like most car owners, you will argue that cars do much more than provide transport. They give you a sense of freedom.  If you wish to, you can go almost anywhere, at any time.  This means an element of denial of the need to do anything to cope with climate change, but you are happy to let the powers-that-be do something to slow it down.

Herein lies a societal division much like the Brexit muddle.  In which Leavers and Remainers each include individuals of all kinds of political inclination.

In relation to the inevitability of climate change, there are many deniers and few approvers.  Most of those who accept the reality of climate change think that something can be done about it. They don’t think it is inevitable.

Again, there is a division of views which is quite separate from political inclination.

Those supporting the Extinction Rebellion probably deny that change is inevitable.  They want action to stop or even reverse climate change.  Which is a good first step towards realising that preparing for climate change is more important.   

The extinction rebels see things from the bottom up.  They have a vested interest in securing a better future for their children.  It is a grass-roots view.

Whether you believe, or not, in getting get rid of cars depends on your vested interests, both conscious and unconscious. Both are views from the bottom up.

Seeing things from the bottom up is essential to preparing for climate change.  Whatever your political inclination.

Those who do see the need to prepare for climate change, especially if they also recognise the inevitability of declining prosperity, can be expected to live in areas which they see to be best for the survival of their families.  Which, I observe, is already happening.

.Bottom-up innovators who expect climate change, and who realise that their lives will have to be debt-free will do well.  Compared with those who believe that business as usual will return, which is a top-down view.

I think it will be a future with some similarities with the days before cars dominated our lives. Which is not harking back to olden times.  It is learning from the past.

I believe that the future will be driven increasingly from the bottom up.  Which is neither left nor right thinking. 

We now have to wait and see what happens. 


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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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