HATE THE MACHINE
The deadly culture of cars and air-conditioning.
Radio Ecoshock Show September 10th, 2010
The program begins with a reading from "Autogeddon" by Heathcote Williams:
"In 1885 Karl Benz constructed the first automobile.
It had three wheels, like an invalid car,
And ran on alcohol, like many drivers.
Since then about seventeen million people have been killed by them
In an undeclared war;
And the whole of the rest of the world is in danger of being run over
Due to squabbles about their oil.
If an alien was to hover a few hundred yards above the planet
It could be forgiven for thinking
That cars were the dominant life-form,
And that human beings were a kind of ambulatory fuel cell:
Injected when the car wished to move off,
And ejected when they were spent.
NOT one huckstering copy-writer―
And they�re only a sheet of Letraset away
From badlands ballyhoo merchants spiking sugar with silver-sand
Or dying sparrows yellow and selling them as canaries―
Ever sees fit to mention that the automobile,
Even that moving Pantheon, the Rolls,
Doubles your heart-beat on entry,
And transforms your psycho-galvanic skin response
To set the needles shivering on any lie detector.
From the moment you settle comfortably behind the wheel―
Your pelvis fondled by replica flesh panting with static―
It increases stress readings, poultices the ductless glands,
Slowly marinates the body of even the most �experienced� driver with adreno-toxins,
Noisily generates a wide range of cardio-vascular pressures,
As well as doubling up as a dinky orgone-accumulator stimulating trash sexuality.
Tides of blood and water in the body
Are magi-mixed, as if there was a permanent full moon.
The car is a portable mistral
Whipping up sumps of duff ions,
And moving them along in a packet of pre-storm tension.
�Oh we had such an awful journey,
I feel completely drained.
Now what did you want to talk to us about?
My concentration�s utterly shot.
Why did we come?"
That was a quote from the long poem "Autogeddon" written by British writer HeathCote Williams and originally published in 1987, the fall edition of The_Whole Earth Review.� It was released as a lavishly illustrated book in 1991, and even made into a radio drama by BBC2.� The presenter was Jeremy Irons, who, it turns out loved cars.
The background music was Gary Numan's 1979 song cars.
This is Radio Ecoshock I'm Alex Smith. Welcome to my hate affair with machines.� Yes I have lived without them.� Millions of people still do, but like the bush-men, or Neanderthals, they are pushed toward the distant fringes of our world.� At least, until the center collapses.
Our entire lives have been car-jacked, no doubt about it.� We'll talk with Anne Lutz Fernandez, co-author of the book "Carjacked - The Culture of the Automobile & Its Effect On Our Lives".� My take: the car is a machine to such the money and life out of you.� Really.
In our second half hour, more machines to wreck the planet: air conditioners. Our guest is Stan Cox, author of "Losing Our Cool, Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through Summer)."� After the world roasted in 2010, with lots more to come in the coming greenhouse world, you might want to find out how to survive, when the big machine breaks down.
"In �The Story of Here Begins� I asked myself the question: Setting aside the issues of the wide world for a second, who and what are right here under my nose? Well, from the top of Water Tower Hill, one answer is abundantly clear: My little ten-mile world is filled with cars. Lots and lots and lots�a god king hell of a lot�of cars. A large slice of the blame for a century�s worth of wrong turns can be laid at the feet of this one invention. More than any other single toy in the playroom of technology, it has enabled us to go completely crazy�and to get there in air conditioned comfort and style!"
That is a quote from Alan Wartes, in his blog "The Story of Here".� And it captures my own feelings so well, when I venture outside to see the six lane roadways interect near my home, those rivers of asphalt and steel.� I risk my life if I try and run across them.� And their exhaust penetrates my walls and windows, 24 hours a day.� How did we get into this toxic way of life?
reading from "Carjacked" by Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez.
"As a nation, we are nearly three times more likely to be killed in a car crash than by homicide, and our children face no greater risk of dying from any cause, accidental or disease-related.
If we die at work, it is usually in a vehicle; since records started being kept in 1992, crashes are the number-one killer on the job, with professional drivers, salespeople, and farmers especially vulnerable.� Most people are shocked when they hear the annual highway death toll in the United States: 41,059 people killed in car crashes in 2007, or an average of 112 people a day - the equivalent of a nearly fully loaded passenger plane going down in flames every single day of the year.
Safety advocates often use this analogy both because it suggest how distorted our perceptions of risk can be - far more people fear getting on planes than into their autos - and because it suggests at least one of the reasons why: the car deaths happen one by one and with regularity, like the drip from a broken faucet.�
Fatal car crashes are so common, and at one level so accepted, that they often go without mention in all but the most local media unless they occur with some kind of bizarre twist.� A carload of teenage girls� piloted by one who may have been texting while driving can get attention; so can a car crushed by a dump truck tipping over; or, as in one recent headline in a Boston paper, when a 'Passenger in One Collision Allegedly Steals Good Samaritan's Car.'�
But, typically, because the 112 Americans, and 3,300 people worldwide, who were killed by cars yesterday, or the 112 the day before that, didn't die together, all at once, they didn't make news."
I'm going to be brutally frank: I think car madness - and trucking - will drive both the economy and the environment right off the edge of a cliff, before anything really changes.� We'll drive until we drop.� We could probably have this same conversation ten years from now, in 2020.� But in our interview, Anne Lutz Fernandez finds many hopeful signs that our culture IS changing.
The last chapter of the book is "A Call to Action" - and I like the fact the authors don't over-intellectualize about a car-free utopia.� Instead, you've got a lot of steps we can try, starting from where we are now.�
Check out the book "Carjacked" and find out more at carjacked.org.
"Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions. This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of death among children worldwide 10 � 19 years old (260,000 children die a year, 10 million are injured) and the sixth leading preventable cause of death in the United States (45,800 people died and 2.4 million were injured in 2005). In Canada they are the cause of 48% of severe injuries."
The song "I'm In Love With My Car" was recorded live in 2005, with lead singer and drummer Roger Taylor.� The original came from Queen in 1975.� You also hear brief clips from "Car Crash" with Courtney Love, "Car Song" by Woodie Guthrie, and "Cars" by Gary Numan (1979).� The revving motor sounds comes from "Life Is A Highway" by Rascal Flatts.
We end the program with a short piece of original music, "Beautiful Science" by Oakland performer Dana Pearson.
We know it's probably bad for us, but we just can't stop doing it.� I'm not talking about drugs or your diet, but air-conditioning.� Author Stan Cox explains how refrigerated rooms and offices have transformed America and the world - at a very high price for the planet, and our culture.� His new book is "Loosing Our Cool - Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through Summer)"
The book "Losing Our Cool" by Stan Cox is packed full of useful facts and statistics - that lead to some deep insights about our society.
Various academics, including Dr. Lisa Guan of Queensland University in Australia, calculate air conditioners in office buildings would collapse during unusual heat waves, like the 14 degrees above normal that just hit Moscow.� Cox tells us air-conditioners raise the surrounding air temperature outdoors by up to 10 degrees, adding to the giant heat-island effect in cities.� That demands even more air conditioners, in a positive feed-back loop.
Quoting from the book:
"In 2008, analysts at Hamburg University of Technology in Germany considered the geographical distribution of cooling and heating requirements under two climate-change scenarios, along with the distribution of human population across the globe, and compared those with the current distribution of climates and population.
From this, they projected changes in humanity's heating and cooling demands.� Four decades from now, they concluded, the average citizen of Earth will experience 18 to 25 percent less cold weather and 17 to 23 prevent more hot weather each year, because populations are growing faster in warm regions of the planet, and all regions will become warmer.� Taking population growth into account, cooling demand will rise by 65 to 72 percent.�
Even though the majority of people now living in the world's hottest climates cannot afford air-conditioning now and probably still won't have access to it in 2050, millions of homes, offices, other buildings and vehicles on every continent will be newly air-conditioned or be reinforced with beefed-up cooling systems; that will add to energy demand and put great stress on global efforts to cultivate sources of energy that will not further worsen global warming.
In this arena, the United States is the undisputed champion.� Already, air-conditioning is approaching 20 percent of year-round electricity consumption by American homes, the highest percentage in our history.� in the commercial sector, it uses 13 percent.� Air-conditioning by homes, businesses, and public buildings together was consuming a total of 484 billion kilowatt-hours per year by 2007.� Compare this to 1955, when I was born into Georgia's late August heat.� That year, the nation consumed a total of 497 billion kilowatt-hours for all uses, not just air-conditioning.� We use as much electricity for air-conditioning now as is currently consumed for all purposes by all 930 million residents of the continent of Africa."
Stan Cox figures we'll need trillions more kilowatt-hours if people in China, India, and Brazil start consuming as much air-conditioning power as Americans.� And they are already hotter.� Most of that would come from coal.
You can see it.� Just like in the movie "Brazil" - the outside gets hot and dead, as coal-fired plants churn out the megawatts.� Humans must live inside buildings of cooling pipes, or die.� That is where we are headed: if you and I decide we can air-condition our way out of global warming.
There are lots of better options.� Most humans lived without air conditioning, and the majority still do.� Houses were built to cool us, just as termite mounds do.� As Stan suggests, we can adapt ourselves to greater heat.� And forget the office dress code: no more ties and jacket, welcome shorts and sandals.� Make windows that open.� Use fans if we must.� Cool the person, not the whole damn 5,000 square foot house!
Let me interject one observation about we humans.� There are actually two races of humans: the furnace people and the lizards.� Furnace people generate their own heat, and feel hot even in cool weather.� Lizard people get their heat externally, and can fry happily on a rock in the Sun.� Generally, trying to seek balance in their opposites, furnace people meet and marry lizard people.� They can never be comfortable in the same room.
My humble suggestion: try to find a mate who meets your heat type.� If possible, furnace people should move to the coasts or further North. Seriously, find a micro-climate that makes you feel comfortable without intervention by machines.� And chose a home that can keep its cool.� Power will go out during heat waves.
Also, try and learn the difference between heat stroke and mere surrender to the heat.� If you are vulnerable to medical emergency, or seniors, find that shade, go for the basement, or at least run a cool bathtub of water and climb in.� For the rest of us, some of my happiest moments consist of being knocked down into a hammock or bed by the heat.� Waiting it out, with no inclination to move, beyond sipping drinks.� Fear of heat just makes you hotter.
I've lived in Bradenton Florida year round, with no air-conditioner.� I've camped in southern Arizona without one, same thing on my visit to Trivandrum, in equatorial India.� You get work done early in the day, and late in the evening, with a Siesta period in the hottest hours.� You learn to totally relax.� Being afraid of heat just makes you hotter.
I live for the day we can live and listen to the real world, beyond the hum of machines.
- Alex Smith