It started as a hobby for the eccentric super-rich; now the car has come to be one of the must-haves of the masses – provided, that is, that you’re part of the richest mass society that the world has ever seen. And our car use is still increasing – even since 1980, UK road traffic has grown by 73%.
As well as carbon dioxide, road vehicles produce 44% of UK nitrous oxide emissions, which cause global warming, low-level ozone pollution, eye and throat irritations, respiratory problems, and damage to plants and materials… Small particulate pollution from vehicles causes heart disease, lung disease, respiratory problems, and chest pain, and is responsible for 8100 deaths and 10500 hospital admissions in the UK every year. Other noxious gases from cars include benzene, which is carcinogenic, and carbon monoxide.
Road casualties are such a fact of life that they rarely get mentioned, even though cars kill more people than many more talked-about hazards. More insidiously, increasing numbers of both adults and children in our society suffer from dangerous levels of obesity – a condition that is encouraged by the attitude that sees the car rather than our own legs as the primary way to get from A to B.
Having said all that, our whole society is heavily geared towards car ownership, and you are only one lone concerned individual, trying to live your life within the existing setup – so let’s assume that your car is essential. But there are ways you can get the benefits of it whilst reducing the costs to yourself and the environment, as the next section explains.