Away with the motor car, plastic; and factory farmingby Chris Mullin / July 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
If I ruled the world, my first act would be to phase out the private motor car. I regard the motor vehicle (and yes, I have one) as a disastrous invention. It has laid waste to our cities, polluted our environment and kills the best part of half a million people a year worldwide.
My aim would be a return to that brief golden age when the bicycle was king, when every little town and many villages were connected to the railway network and when our inner cities were habitable.
It is not an impossible dream. I knew Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, before the coming of market forces. Until 20 years ago it was a city of a million bicycles. Even ambassadors travelled by bike. The only vehicles were a few rattling trams (long since abolished), a handful of military vehicles and a few aged black Volgas for members of the Politburo. There were no traffic lights. The bicycles drifted in great, lazy rivers. At junctions they intermingled, emerging miraculously unscathed.
Today, in the grip of a bout of market forces that not even Mrs Thatcher would recognise, Hanoi is a city of Honda motorcycles, wave after noisy, polluting wave. They flow in all directions, along pavements, across forecourts, even into oncoming traffic. Very soon one in ten of these Hondas will turn into a motor car and when that happens, nothing will move. At which point the Vietnamese authorities will make their next mistake: they will start demolishing large swathes of their historic city to build super-highways and in due course nothing will move on those either.