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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

WEEKLY Q: Why do we need roads?

I have decided to start a new regular mid-week section. Every week I will ask a provocative (in theory) question to (hopefully) stimulate debate on a green issue. Please do feel free to nominate questions (email me at

First up we have:

Why do we need roads?

A good friend on mine (Wassup Pep) was visiting this week from San Francisco and we talked about a lot of great stuff including a book he told me about that I must read, Collapse, by Jared Diamond (am wading through Ancient Sunlight right now which seems to cover some similar ground at a glance...thoughts anyone?) but one question he asked just stuck with me. So simple and clear.

Why do we need roads? And I do not mean why can't all cars just go off-road (heaven forbid!!!). I ask the question on a deeper level.

Why has society developed to the point where we are so widely separated from our daily requirements that we need roads to move food, to visit friends, to commute to work & to take our kids to school?

I am not saying we should all have everything we need within 5 miles...not an extremist about it. But why is everything so spread out? Seriously.

Surely my life and society/community would be better off if kids went to a school that was only a 5 minute walk away, if parents worked mostly from home, if most of our food was produced locally and if most of our friends and family lived nearby. What would the negatives to that scenario be?

So why has it turned out the other way? Has, for example, the motor industry and any other relevant special interests, played a role in defining how our communities have developed?

He asked the question because we were talking about the fake elements of our world we are told we need when perhaps we should regularly re-evaluate such needs. Do we need it? Who benefits the most? Who benefits the least? Are there alternatives? What are the pros and cons either way?

There are probably no right or wrong answers but I think debate on these sorts of issues are crucial. Questions should be asked. Assumptions should be assessed.

Look forward to your thoughts.



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At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need roads because we as a society have bought a bad idea. We as a people were told, taught, belive, that our society will collaspe if we do not continue to grow. To grow we build out over the land and conquer it. Newer is better aand we keep trying against all reason to fill the land with more stuff. Never mind that we waste a fortune on this stuff just build it and no matter how illogical it is some body will live in it and have to drive for three hours to get a loaf of bread.

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, I agree that we should always continue to challenge our views on the world.
I think there is a simple problem with this world.... people believe they don't have enough time to do all the things they are told they need to do. We don't eat properly, we don't socialise properly, we don't build comunities properly, etc all because of the "I don't have the time" view point.
I believe roads and cars are just a symptom of this, along with binge drinking and the breakdown in socity.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I do see the point of this article - I am not challenging it, I would just like to add an interesting fact: even animals make roads. I have seen it in both Japan and Africa. Safety, water, food and a comfortable climate are usually not always in the same place. Many animals will also use human roads in the bush simply because it is easier - they don't want to be getting thorns in their face any more than we do.

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need roads to park our cars on when we don't have a garage or drive way!

I think we are a bit too far down the line to change much about roads but we can make a difference about how they are used and how much they are used.

I think there needs to be a realisation that cars aren't the golden pill and that as well as creating a lot of pollution they take up quite a lot of room too.

My ideal car would be something you can fold up and put in you pocket one you have finished using it - I'm rambling now...

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Mia said...

I frequently think about the geography of our land(s). It could be seen as a political strategy to seperate society. But then, on another level, isn't it a way to connect? These roads just don't lead to nowhere, you know? They are they to connect people, cultures, and the basic necessities of life.

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's not really the proliferation of 'roads' aka trails, but the amazing amounts of energy and resources it takes to lay down an eight lane highway just so we can drive faster, use even more oil and pump even more emissions into the atmosphere all so we can chase the ideal that has been sold to us - faster and easier gratification. Having a trail is a fun thing, it forces one to slow down - whereas if I'm faced with an open stretch of highway, my right foot suddenly gets quite heavy.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger City Hippy said...

Thanks for all those great comments.

Bill: Growth seems to be considered only in economic terms. Can growth be measured in other ways? Gross National Happiness is something that has recently surfaced. What say we grow that eh? Interesting idea.

Mongoosefred: Lack of time, great point...we are all so busy. Why? I want to spend more time with my kids not less. Instead most of us have to pay others to bring our kids up for us. How insane?

Dan: Very interesting point. Roads do have serious uses of course. Thanks for contextualising the question back into nature for us.

Matpol: I agree with what you say...we are hardly gonna remove roads. But do we need more? or would we be better off planning community layouts better from now on? A car you could fold up and put in your that would be cool!

sfbookgirl: hmmm very good point. Roads are a symbol of a larger problem humanity seems to face - that the answer lies in more consumption. I like the point you make about how a trail forces you to engage more.

Namaste to you all



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