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Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out

12 605 8014
07.03.2019

It’s the last straw. Parked outside the hospital doors is a minibus with its engine running. The driver is playing on his mobile phone. The fumes are blowing into the atrium. I step up to his window and ask him to turn the engine off. He does so, grumpily. Then I notice he’s wearing a health service uniform. I walk through the atrium, down a corridor and into the cancer department (not for cancer this time, but to talk about reconstructive surgery). I look around the huge waiting room and wonder how many of the people sitting here might be ill as a result of air pollution. I think of people in other departments: children with asthma attacks, patients being treated for road injuries, or suffering from a lifetime of inactivity, as wheels replaced their feet. And I’m struck by the amazing variety of ways in which cars have ruined our lives.

Let’s abandon this disastrous experiment, recognise that this 19th-century technology is now doing more harm than good, and plan our way out of it. Let’s set a target to cut the use of cars by 90% over the next decade.

Yes, the car is still useful – for a few people it’s essential. It would make a good servant. But it has become our master, and it spoils everything it touches. It now presents us with a series of emergencies that demand an emergency response.

One of these emergencies is familiar to every hospital. Pollution now kills three times as many people worldwide as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Remember the claims at the start of this century, projected so noisily by the billionaire press: that public money would be better spent on preventing communicable disease than on preventing climate breakdown? It turns out that the health dividend from phasing........

© The Guardian