Thursday, April 17, 2008

More of What I would be watching if I had TV: Human Footprint, driving edition

From the National Geographic Channel, a series that boils down what it means to be human and what a lifetime of consumption costs. The purpose of the show is to highlight how wasteful humans are as a species and how the Western lifestyle isn't sustainable. Economists call these negative effects "externalities", businessmen call these negative impacts "profits"; they don't necessarily have to pay for the pollution they cause.

Cars don't make themselves, they provide jobs and they alter the landscape.
Cities that were largely built out before the invention of the automobile are drastically different (New York and San Francisco for example) than cities that were developed around the automobile (Los Angeles and Las Vegas). Older cities are denser since it was harder to move away from the urban core. There is no end to the sprawl of the automobile cities, they endlessly replicate themselves in suburbs, dictated by developers who built houses and created cities "in the path of development".

I regard my car as a chain of necessity, a burden that I have to pay for. I am sure my grandparents view it in a different light, as their grandparents probably didn't have one and it is easier for them to recall a time when the car wasn't everything.

I read "How To Live Well Without A Car" and I recommend it if you view your car as I do mine, a depreciating asset and a money sink. I only wish I was able to implement more of these findings but as people who live here in Southern California know, there is no walking in La.

Human Footprint - Our Driving Imprint-->
Thanks to Henry Ford, we’ve become an auto nation. The car has transformed the landscape. It has enabled us to work in one place and live someplace else. Although our nation has only 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 30 percent of the world’s cars. We shape our lives around the car. We’ve built freeways and cities for it. Life without it is unimaginable.

But life with it comes at a cost.
Cars are complicated machines, requiring natural resources and high technology to manufacture. Human Footprint not only looks at the footprint of one person’s lifetime of driving, but also looks at the actual footprint of a typical American car.

A driving nation:
- The average American will own an average of 12 cars in a lifetime.
- We each drive an average of 11,000 miles a year — that’s 627, 000 miles in a lifetime — which is 25 times round the world.
- On that journey, we’ll use 31,350 gallons of gasoline — enough to fill three large fuel tankers.
- The 200 million cars that drive on America’s roads and highways will be replaced roughly every 17 years.
- Americans use a quarter of the world’s oil, and it takes half of that to fuel all of our cars — that amounts to 10.5 million barrels of oil every day.
- The United States also pumps half of the world’s carbon dioxide fumes into the air each year.
- The family car can contribute to nearly six tons of carbon emissions a year, and over a driving lifetime this adds up to 360 tons for each vehicle on the road.
- If all the vehicles in the United States were a nation, their combined carbon footprint would be the fifth largest of all the countries on earth.

Where do our cars come from?
Did you know the parts of your car may have travelled farther than the complete car will ever drive?

To determine the extent of an average car’s environmental footprint, Human Footprint dismantled an old and no longer working Ford Crown Victoria and placed each of the parts on the world map to see just how far your car has travelled to get to your local dealership. It is truly a world affair:
- The seatbelts and airbags come from Sweden.
- The zinc metals, chemicals and catalysts come from Belgium.
- The antilock breaking, fuel injection systems, door and seat components come from Germany.
- The tires are from South Korea.
- The stereo and wiring are from China and Japan.
- There are aluminium parts from Thailand.
- And that’s not taking into account all the raw materials like manganese iron ore and rubber – all before we’ve driven a single mile.

What we do counts, so how can we each make a difference?
- In the United States, if all motorists were to shift from their current vehicles with internal combustion engines to cars with hybrid engines like the Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight, gasoline use could be cut in half.
- If you can afford a hybrid, says you can save 16,000 pounds of CO2 and $3,750 a year. You don't even have to give up your SUV!

Human Footprint airs this Sunday beginning at 9p et/pt

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