As a hippy, I should dislike cars. Mind you, I should dislike meat too. I love both. It is a huge clash between my hippy ideals and the fact that I just love munching animals and driving around in fossil-fuel-munching motor cars.
But, with both, I try my best to reduce the impact of my activities. Some might frown upon my old clunkers and think that it would be better for the environment if I traded them in for new, more efficient cars. They’d be wrong. By continuing to use my older vehicles, I’m continuing to avoid the need for a new car to be produced. Also, neither of my cars contain the precious metals associated with catalytic converters and both can easily attain over 40mpg, so they’re pretty handy on the juice too.
“But some new cars can do 70mpg!” They may claim that this is the case, but in reality? Almost certainly rubbish. Too many people blindly accept manufacturers claims, but there are reports out there pointing out that what they claim is not always anything like reality. That goes for CO2 emissions too, which is annoying as these newer cars often have very cheap road tax based on numbers which may not actually be realistic. The BBC has even reported on how tests are manipulated. There’s also the small matter of modern diesels producing more nitrous oxide emissions than older ones – something that is leading folk like Boris Johnson to consider banning diesels outright for city centres.
So, I shall continue to use my old cars with a clear conscience. Sure, burning fossil fuels is still a bad thing, but my annual mileage is actually quite low, and the cars I own are really quite efficient.
I do my best with meat-eating too. Most of the meat we buy is from local farms. We can see some of the animals from our window. We know the animals are well cared for, and the food miles are very low. We’re collecting more beef this very weekend. I do worry about the emission problems with cows – they produce an awful lot of methane – but no-one locally appears to be farming ostrich. That’s a shame as they’re very tasty and have a cleaner exhaust than cows.
So, I eat animals with a clear conscience too. I know some don’t like it, but I do.
But this feeling of being pulled two ways is summed up very nicely with my thoughts on politics. Yes, this lengthy piece does have a point! You see, when it comes down to who’s policies I must like, The Green Party comes up trumps. It isn’t a party that ONLY thinks about environmental matters – there’s far more to them. They want to nationalise the railways, because they want to improve the service and don’t think private companies are inclined to do it. They’re really quite keen on keeping the NHS together and making it better. They also care very much more about disability rights and benefits than the heartless Tories – who just seem to see anyone who claims benefits as a scrounger. Maybe that would be easier to stomach if MPs hadn’t proved to be so good at scrounging themselves…
The problem stems from Transport. Clearly, The Green Party aren’t keen on cars. They want to reduce speed limits, cut new road building and encourage people to buy newer, cleaner cars. To a petrolhead, this seems like a massive attack on something I get a great deal of joy from. But, the hippy in me KNOWS something has to be done. Traffic levels are just ridiculous. There are an awful lot of places that I go out of my way to avoid. Like the South East, or most cities. Non-enthusiasts are horribly tied to their cars and I can see that this needs to change. The Greens at least know that public transport HAS to improve. For many, there’s simply no incentive to leave the car at home. For some, it’s not even realistic. The problem is, people will come out with excuse after excuse for why they must use a car, but the arguments often don’t stack up. The simple reason is that people like having a car. They like the flexibility and the lack of other public sharing your journey. Depressingly, an awful lot of people are so attached to their cars that they won’t undertake even short, entirely realistic journeys by foot. No wonder obesity is becoming an ever larger (ahem) problem.
But, I do struggle with a lot of Green transport policies. Any encouragement to get people to scrap perfectly good cars for ‘low emission’ ones fills me with dread. It’s the scrappage scheme all over again. A terrible, wasteful scurge on the world of motoring – though worse still in America where engines of scrappaged cars actually had to be ruined! They poured liquid in to deliberately kill the engines so they weren’t even any good as parts. Ludicrous!
I also really struggle with plans to reduce speed limits. The Greens would like to replace the 60mph rural speed limit with a 50mph one for reasons of safety and emissions. I agree that there are roads where this would be sensible, but as someone who loves driving, I like doing 60mph! I hate driving around Oxfordshire, where blanket 50mph speed limits exist on a lot of major trunk routes. Even in my 2CV this is boring!
The Greens also want to introduce 20mph zones on most urban roads. Again, for reasons of safety and emissions. I don’t agree with that either. Sure, in some places, this makes a lot of sense – Aberystwyth has introduced 20mph routes in its town centre and very sensible they are too. But ALL urban roads? It’d be awful. I’m surprised they don’t want us to go back to 4mph and a bloke with a red flag up front. Oh, and they’d like to start ramping up road tax too, to try and price us out of our cars.
I imagine that these plans have more to do with making driving unpleasant. There would be less time saving if cars couldn’t drive as quickly so maybe folk would use public transport instead. I can’t really see it as anything other than an attack on motorists.
But here’s the thing. Come the election, there’s still a pretty good chance that I’ll vote Green. No party delivers ALL that anyone wants and the chances of The Greens getting a majority are very remote indeed. Sure, I disagree with the transport side of things, but what is more important? Voting for a party that goes completely against the current system, one that would probably improve my life in many areas? Or vote against them just because I like my car so much?
Even as a petrolhead, voting based on my hobby rather than my overall life doesn’t seem right.