Yes, we really must ban private cars

Logically, every day that goes by where we do practically nothing to address our climate crisis, the more reasonable the idea of banning private cars (especially in urban areas) should become. But in reality, it doesn’t feel as if we’re making any progress in this regard. People generally aren’t warming to the idea, or at most are warming to it at a snail’s pace.

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera a lot recently. They seem to be the best of a bad bunch when it comes to international media outlets regarding the climate crisis; especially when it comes to climate related suffering in the Middle East and the general global south. They still talk about GDP and economic growth being a good thing. They talk about F1 and World Rally straight after stories of record droughts, sandstorms, famines and so on. But at least they always highlight inequality, human rights under threat, and other uncomfortable issues that other outlets shy away from.

They’re extremely good at documenting the dire state of our climate. But when it comes to solutions, it’s a very different story. I don’t really see much about solutions, and I see very little possibility of them suggesting anything other than mainstream favourites like renewable energy and electric vehicles. At least not in the near future. So if the best mainstream media outlet isn’t informing people about the real solutions, then what chance do we have of change?

You might be thinking something along the lines of “yeah, but that’s mainstream media. What about social media and YouTube in particular?” Well, I do agree that YouTube is where the progressive ideas are going to come from. But in my experience, progressive news and climate related channels are still pretty small when you consider where we are in the crisis with seemingly endless weather extremes every day. And when I comment on these channels about a private car ban, I don’t see a lot of positive feedback. I’m more likely to attract either a troll or someone who’s supposedly on my side but who can’t imagine life in urban areas without cars. By now, it shouldn’t be controversial to end the plague of cars in our urban areas, but it is. It’s extremely controversial; even in places which could easily be cycled by unfit people if most of the cars were gone.

We all saw that non-cyclists were riding bikes during the original spring 2020 lockdown. But it didn’t lead to permanent change because the establishment didn’t want it to. I’ve talked about this a lot. Some cities and countries did use it as an opportunity to change a little bit; but no one had the bravery to go the whole way and severely limit private car use. Even when it’s clearly the fastest and cheapest way to get people cycling and to slash emissions from the transport sector.

So what happens next? My best guess is that nothing will happen until maybe later this year. The coming summer heat records combined with food supply issues and energy prices going into the winter could cause a societal tipping point around the world. But it will need to be an apocalyptic blend to make humanity wake up and start doing things that make sense (like banning private cars). The crises we’ve accumulated so far have not been enough, despite being pretty terrible. The climate crisis, the war, covid, cost of living, monkeypox, avian flu etc.

While we are seeing the status quo starting to struggle, we’re not yet at the point where people begin questioning everything en masse. But this is only going one way. The resurgence of unions and the disabling of a large percentage of the global workforce with long covid show that the current exploitative system can’t keep going for much longer. The question is how much longer; and if we will still have time to act once it does fail. One thing is for sure; it won’t be any form of media that changes the course of humanity. I just don’t see any progressive outlet growing fast enough to even challenge mainstream media’s viewership before our various crises start dictating society’s direction.

Why traditional Civil Disobedience is the wrong approach in the climate fight

When you think of direct action on the climate crisis, you would probably first think of Extinction Rebellion protestors blocking London bridges; or some other big disruptive protest in which people get dragged off by police, and the mainstream media talk about how terrible it is that people were slightly delayed in getting to work. I’m not against large, peaceful protest, but I don’t think traditional civil disobedience is the most effective way of putting pressure on governments. The tiny benefit isn’t worth getting arrested for.

The most effective method of pressurising governments and businesses in my opinion is the mass refusal to participate in the endless growth based economic system. This can take the form of working less hours or not at all, not buying things we don’t need, as well as more targeted boycotts of certain products or services. And you don’t have to get thrown in a police cell for your troubles either.

One of the easiest and most crucial things we can all do right now is moving our money out of financial institutions that support the fossil fuel status quo. This can be complicated when it comes to pensions. But for bank accounts, it’s easy to switch to a more ethical bank; and there are automated tools which transfer your scheduled payments across as well. You’ll still have to change any accounts that use your debit card manually, but it’s no different than when your card expires and you get a new one. It’s no great hardship, and very much worth the effort.

Another hugely important element of the strategy of deliberately tanking the economy is housing. In many cultures, it is normal to live in multi-generational households for your whole life. I’m not necessarily suggesting that; but certainly in the western world, people are often a bit too keen to move out of home very young, and parents have been told that this is a good idea over many decades. I think it’s unnatural to want to separate ourselves from our families so young, and we should take the opportunity to live together for as long as families enjoy it. Obviously it’s not going to suit everyone for various reasons. But if you get on well, it’s definitely a very effective method of doing the opposite of what the system wants you to do.

This is also one area where boomers can have an outsized influence in the climate fight. They tend to have the money to be able to support their kids and grandkids to be full-time activists. Everyone who is able to not work while also spending as little as possible is hugely important. Imagine if everyone who was able to do it did so. The economy would be in ruins (as far as the elites are concerned anyway), and the government would be forced to change tack (or just get annihilated in the next election).

Interestingly, the effect seems to be happening already thanks to our incompetent and uncaring government. The latest jobs data in the UK shows that there are more job vacancies than people actively looking for work. The suggestion by experts and the media is that this is entirely due to hundreds of thousands of Brits being (possibly) permanently incapacitated by Long Covid, which the government allowed to happen through their intentionally useless handling of the pandemic; from the beginning really, but particularly the last 10 months since “Freedom Day” in July 2021.

Clearly I don’t want to tank the economy by people being unable to work. I want it to be a choice, but it really demonstrates that we will get there by hook or by crook. This government is so cruel and at the same time so stupid that they can’t even do economic growth right. Having said that, I don’t think that it is entirely down to Long Covid. There must be quite a few people like me who refused to go back to work during covid and subsequently checked out of the economy; and those numbers will keep increasing. Especially now with the cost of living crisis that the government of course chooses not to solve. I can imagine young people renting flats giving up on that to return home, and possibly cutting back their work hours too, if not quitting entirely. Why work your arse off in a system when you never get rewarded for it anyway?

To sum up, I fully support all climate protests, but we need to get smart and use the establishment’s precious economy against them. And you can see that it’s going to work. Even just this “worrying” jobs report has the government and terrified, and that’s of their own making. It wouldn’t take much concerted action at all for them to feel more pressure than they’ve ever felt from every climate march or protest in history, combined. They don’t care if you go and protest, as long as you still drive a car and go flying off on holiday. If we refuse to work and stop spending money, they will be panicking almost immediately; along with the bankers, investors and economists. We all saw what a house of cards neoliberal capitalism is during the first covid lockdowns. It won’t take much for it to all come crashing down, to be replaced by something that actually works for all of us, and the rest of life on Earth.

When will people stop thinking I’m nuts?

I’m pretty convinced that the best way to do something about the climate crisis is to talk about it. Bring it up. Plant a seed. Make people question everything. So I try to bring it up in YouTube comments, or Facebook groups, or Twitter. Even in person back when I used to talk to actual people who aren’t my family. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to this tactic.

The main one being that everyone thinks you’re nuts. I’m pretty sure Chris Packham thinks I’m nuts for posting about how dire the climate situation is on his Facebook page. I’m even more sure that Geoff Marshall is convinced I’m a lunatic since all my comments on his YouTube channel are about our existential crisis. I can’t just enjoy the videos about old trains without making it about human survival on this planet.

I’m always there to crash the party with a comment sure to depress (and sometimes actively piss off) people who just want to have a laugh at a silly video. They’re not interested in the end of the world. Why can’t I leave them alone and keep my doom and gloom to myself?

The other problem is it brings you down to Earth with a thud whenever you talk to regular people about these things. It makes you realise how far away we are from action. In our little climate semi-doomer echo chamber (which is a tiny niche within a niche), we’re talking about big ideas to save life on Earth, and we’re making changes to our lives that make us feel like we’re making a difference, even though we’re not really. And then you realise that everyone else is about 10 steps behind. It’s especially bad face to face. They talk to me about how they do their recycling, so they’re doing their part. They’re driving a hybrid car or something to that effect (just kidding – never had anyone driving a hybrid). Something so outdated that it makes me feel like giving up then and there.

But perhaps the worst thing is online when people completely ignore your comment. I’d honestly prefer someone reply to me and tell me ten reasons why I’m supposedly wrong, how nuclear power is the future, that biofuels can enable us to keep consuming as we are indefinitely, than have them completely ignore me. Sometimes I’ll go back the next day to a comment I wrote that I felt was well written, easy to comprehend and fact-filled; and I’ll find it the only one that hasn’t had a single like or reply. It’s so demoralising. I’m telling the truth, but because everyone has accepted the bullshit idea that we have 30 years to cut emissions to zero, they just give me the digital equivalent of a blank stare. And like with all the other things about society that depress me, it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon either.

It really is pretty amazing how 40 or so years of neoliberalism has created a scenario where people who speak the truth are treated as if they’re nutcases. When you look back to before Reagan and Thatcher, everything was so truthful. Especially if you go back before World War 2. Science and facts were respected. People cared about what was true and morally right.

I know that in the end I’ll be proven right, but I don’t know if that will be able to make up for years of being treated like a weirdo when I’m just trying to inform people about what’s happening to our world. The scientists are generally pretty awful at getting the message out there, and people like Guy McPherson have effectively been de-platformed. So it makes sense for as many of us as possible to step in and spread the word on their behalf. I don’t even know if I’ve convinced anyone though. If I did plant a seed in someone’s mind and that one person later realised I was right and is now spreading the message further, then it would all be worth it. But I honestly don’t know if I have. I wish there was a way I could find out.

It feels like it’s not just me being ignored and treated as a crazy person though. It feels like anyone under 40 doesn’t matter. Who cares what we say? We’re nuts according to the establishment in this country. You want to have a fully funded healthcare system? Nuts. You want to get rid of the royal family? Preposterous. You want to change the economic system so humans can have a future on this planet? Ok that’s it. Out! Get out! Crazy kids.

When is it all going to flip on it’s head? When are they going to become the crazy ones? I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.

Everything we’re doing now will have to be undone

Look at pretty much any part of society right now, and you’ll notice that it’s still going in the opposite direction of how we need to be going to have any kind of sustainable future. Housing, energy, roads, airports, (lack of) bike infrastructure, railways, politics. You name it, we’re going backwards in it.

These are all massive aspects in a society, and mistakes (to be polite) that can’t be quickly remedied. This is problematic when we’re in a rapidly accelerating climate emergency; and it’s why we need to get over the sunk cost fallacy and pull the plug on these projects before it’s too late.

It takes a long time to build nuclear power plants, or high speed rail, or millions of homes that are too big, unsustainably built and car-dependant. And then when you’re finished destroying our precious remaining “wild areas” building them, we’re left with an undesirable outcome that will take even more time and effort to fix, if it’s even possible. In some cases it won’t be.

I’ve laid out my plan of emergency measures to immediately implement, but before we can do that, we have to cut off all of these projects that are going in the opposite direction. We CAN just stop these things halfway through. You don’t have to complete these insane projects just because you’ve spent a lot of money already. Watch the mainstream media and you’ll be told that rapid change is just not possible. It’s not possible politically, socially, in terms of our infrastructure, our energy mix. But it’s not remotely true. We have to admit that everything we’re doing is wrong. The system which economists and mainstream media tell us is fantastic, is anything but. It’s pure lunacy.

It’s like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and admitting their problem. You can’t tackle alcoholism unless you admit it first. The same applies to the global economic system. We’re addicted to this economic system, even though it makes the vast majority of us stressed and unhappy. This system of endless growth taught us that we can all have everything we could ever want; all the mega-projects you could imagine, and there would never be any environmental or social consequences for any of it. The rich could get ever richer and the poor could get ever poorer, and that’s ok. Not only that, but the thought of taking some of the rich people’s money and giving it to the poor, or to make society better for everyone is considered unthinkable in this society. It amazes me that we’ve got to this point, and it feels like just a relative handful of us even notice.

Imagine if in the NBA Draft, the championship winning team got the first pick every year. That’s what this global economic system is.

And when it comes to what we are supposedly doing about the climate crisis within this system, the main thing is lying to ourselves. Recently I got to the point where I was starting to find it funny to see the stupidity of people talking about green growth, EVs, renewable energy, as well as the ridiculous people still talking about new fossil fuels in the North Sea for example. But on Earth Day I felt really pissed off again, specifically by Joe Biden making his token environmental speech seemingly once a year to say how seriously he’s taking it, and how he’s going to count old trees and then somehow protect them.

We have to wake up now. And the first stage of that is to end the bullshit multi-decade mega-projects which are so symbolic of this ridiculous system we’re forced to live under. Only then can we think about what we need to do here and now. Once we’ve stopped speeding in the wrong direction, and we’re living in the present, we can think about what comes next. Because right now, change feels impossible when all you hear is politicians and the BBC talking about what capitalism already has set in stone for 20 years from now. It doesn’t matter what’s happening to the climate, until the penny finally drops, whenever that’s going to be. They do it on purpose. To entrench neoliberal capitalism as far into the future as they can. Make it so that the general public can’t see any alternative. It’s worked for them. It’s why covid is still going on. People feel like no matter what, they must go to work to earn enough money to just about stay in the black, if they’re lucky. They have no time to stop and think about why they’re doing it. Even having months at home during the original lockdown was not enough to shift people’s mindsets in most cases. They still feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses and buy that new SUV, and that bigger house. And they justify it to themselves because the media tell them about those car factory and construction jobs that are so crucial to GDP.

We have to leave behind long term mega-projects for short term profits, and embrace short term action for long term survivability of our species and the rest of life on Earth. Otherwise we’ve had it. Every day is crucial at this point, and we’re wasting one after another talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Prince Harry and the Queen. Will Smith and Chris Rock. Do we really want to lose everything while being distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter in the slightest?