Green Prophet: How to Live a Car-Free Existence

Maybe it has something to do with my love of trains and car-induced travel sickness as a child, but I can honestly say I’ve never aspired to driving a car.

Hitting the open road or whizzing around the city in my very own car doesn’t really fill me with anything but dread. Although I think that choosing to drive is a personal decision, it does however seem to annoy lots of people. People who seem to think that you are a complete failure unless you can drive and own a car.

I am 24 years old now and I have come to terms with the fact that I will never drive my own car but my little sister (nothing like a little public humiliation here!) thinks ‘it’s a little embarrassing’ that I don’t drive. It’s an important skill, she reasons, one which would give me a lot more independence. She’s right about the personal independence it would give me as a young Muslim women but than I tell her what I always tell anyone who asks why I don’t drive- ‘Driving is not the future’.

Although people seems to think that driving a car is as natural as.. well walking, the fact is that driving cars is a pretty new phenomena in the wider scale of things and everyone owning a car is an even newer trend. How did we get here? Well it wasn’t a coincidence, we were guided here by a number of factors: advertising, rising income, growing consumerist culture and the crafty work of some car manufactures.

According to the No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change by Danny Chivers (which I recently reviewed), back in the early 1900’s companies like General Motors and Firestone aggressively bought out public transport systems in the US and then shut them down. Over a hundred commuter rail systems were closed and thousands of kilometres of rail tracks were pulled up. In fact, the poor state of public transport seems to be a (rather short-sighted) motivation behind why most people resort to driving cars. As Chivers points out, “the US love affair with the motor car was really more of an arranged marriage.”

What’s more driving cars doesn’t work. Despite those epic adverts with cars sweeping across amazing landscapes and locations, most people hate driving and seems to spend more time stuck in traffic than actually getting anywhere fast. The more people drive the worse things will get- it just doesn’t make any sense.  A indicator of this is the fact that less 10 percent of the global population own a car- they are expensive, time-wasting and stressful machines and I guarantee that any journey would be improved by catching the train or bus where a person is paid for the stress of driving.

All this and I haven’t even got to the dangers of driving to our planet and ourselves. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, more people will die from road accidents than AIDS in 2020. If that doesn’t shock you than the impact that cars have on global warming should. According to the World Resources Institute, motor vehicles currently emit over 900 million metric tonnes of CO2 every year- that’s more than 15 percent of global fossil fuel emissions. Time to go car-free!

Originally published at Green Prophet.

Image via ecastro on flickr.

3 responses to “Green Prophet: How to Live a Car-Free Existence

  1. Salaams!

    i do believe the economic reality of $5.00+ for a gallon of gas will convert many people into bicycle, train, and bus riders, very soon.

    i’m one of them.
    going to an auction for bikes this month, and pricing bike helmets online as i type! 😉


    • arwafreelance

      Salam Asiila, I know that it sounds cruel to say this but I really hope your right! It will probably really difficult for people to initially give up their own cars at first but they’d soon realise the pluses of cycling/walking/taking public transport.
      Good luck with the auction and hope you get some cycling lovelies
      Arwa 🙂

  2. Masha-Allah, nice article!

    The car-dependent societies of industrialized nations have by now taken the existence and usage of cars so for granted that they’ve oriented their lives around the use of cars. If one argues against it, they may not be swayed because the idea of life without a car seems so ridiculous. So many counters come to mind: a) well what if you live too far from work to get to it any other way?; b) how are you supposed to bring home a week’s worth of groceries?; c) if you live far from the Masjid and the surrounding Muslim community, you’ll be denying interaction with those Muslims if you can’t always get to the events/get-togethers of those Muslims because they’re too far for you. If you take cars for granted as part of a de-facto way of life, then only many and/or strong reasons for denying cars could sway you. And as for many strong reasons, Arwa, I surmise that you have more on your mind than what you have expounded upon in this article. Say more… 🙂

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