What do recent reports about the worldâ€™s soon to be third biggest killer, a BMW driver in
A week ago Tuesday the World Health Organization launched a campaign to combat the negative health effects of traffic crashes, which are expected to nearly double by 2020 becoming the worldâ€™s third biggest killer. (1) Already 1.2 million people die and 50 million more are injured from car crashes every year. (2) Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and public transport users are most likely to be harmed, especially in poorer countries.
The â€œBMW collision affairâ€ highlights the rising bitterness over the growing class divide in Chinese society where a minority of the population has accrued the benefits from the sell off of state assets and the shift towards capitalism. A significant manifestation of this class divide is the rising dominance of the car at the expense of non- car transportation methods. For non-car drivers, the vast majority, transportation is becoming more dangerous and as cars congest routes more time consuming. Deference towards the all mighty car, especially in some big cities, is mounting. Itâ€™s within this context that a BMW driver feels a scratch of her car warrants a violent reprisal. The intensifying feeling of entitlement to the road (and all transportation routes) that Chinese car drivers seem to be displaying mimics
This car hegemony has a slew of negative domestic cultural side effects such as unpleasant cities and rising obesity. (To read a more in depth analysis: http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2004-04/01engler.cfm) These side effects, however, pale in comparison to the global consequences of car dominance. Cars burn up between one-third and half of all oil consumed in the world. (5,6) (Led by driving, especially big cars, inclined Canadian and
In 1990 there were 1 million cars in
As a result, oil consumption, in the not too distant future, may contribute to the destruction of vast swaths of the planetâ€™s life forms, including human beings. Already oil management leads to a variety of international evils. Does anybody believe the hundreds of dead in Fallujah arenâ€™t connected to the desire to control
The evidence that oil extraction does little to alleviate poverty and is devastating for the environment appears convincing. Not for the World Bank, even though a WB commissioned, Extractive Industries Review, recently recommended the WB stop financing oil and coal projects in developing countries. The WB, according to the Financial Times, â€œwill oppose the idea that the Bank should phase out all oil projects within five years.â€ (13) (Recent protests have successfully pressured the WB into a bit more transparency, namely independent reviews of its procedures, however, we are not yet strong enough to force the WB into adopting important progressive proposals.) The WBâ€™s reluctance to stop funding oil projects, even when its own commission concludes there are serious environmental downsides and little developmental benefits to these projects, should not be surprising. It is after all an institution controlled by the leading capitalist nations whose energy companies dominate the worldâ€™s energy markets and have plenty of influence over the political processes. And Western oil corporations consider WB money and approval vital for many risky oil projects in poor countries.
Immediately after the Extractive Industries Review was leaked, oil companies denounced its recommendations. Also quick to act, 16 major banks collaborated and sent a letter to WB President, James Wolfensohn, opposing the Extractive Industries Reviewâ€™s proposals. (14) Auto companies did not get involved. There was no need for them to urge the WB to continue subsidizing oil extraction for the benefit their sales. Other elements of the business class â€“ energy and finance â€“ and the political establishment stepped up to do the bidding for oil and ultimately the car. In the same vein, in order to expand sales in
Today Chinese politicians go out of their way to build roads and highways and lure car manufactures to produce for the internal market. Politicians see car expansion as part of modernization. Itâ€™s all part of todayâ€™s car hegemony.
4. Newsday Ap. 6 2004
5. The Hydrogen Economy p.65
6. Le Soleil Ap. 8 2004
8. Washington Post
9. Le Soleil Ap 10 2004
11. Le Soleil Ap. 8 2004
14. FT Ap 5 2004