Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Divorce Your Car: Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile


Published by: 
New Society Publishers

Publisher town: 
Gabriola Island, Canada


THIS BOOK UNTANGLES the romance from the reality of the automobile in order to expose dependency and serve as a practical guide for the establishment of a car-free, or car-light, life. The impact of the automobile on life and the environment is detailed in order to reveal the heavy cost of society’s collective marriage to the automobile culture. Attention is drawn to the unequal sacrifices that are made, in turn, for the limited benefits of driving. By providing useful tools, information and testimonials, the book can serve as a handbook for people considering a less-dependent relationship with the car. The book is divided into three sections: the history of automobile culture; the harmful effects of the automobile; and practical advice for those living without a car. The heavy burden of automobiles is weighed against the romance and resulting dependency on the car.

Supported by external mechanisms, the love affair with the car dominated twentieth century development in North America. This book reveals how the advent of the car led to the decline of alternative forms of transportation in North American cities. The infrastructure necessary for the expansion of the automobile market changed the landscape and led to a decline in the feasibility of mass transport. Housing spread outwards, with the development of auto-dependent suburbs. The automobile industry, heavily supported by governments, leveraged many of these changes. All the while, the marketing of the automobile captured popular imagination while fuelling consumption and desire. Initially considered as a means of making life more civilized, luxurious and orderly, the automobile became a ubiquitous mode of transportation. As we now know, this advance was not without costs.

The second section explores the high costs of the automobile on the individual and collective life, and the environment. Mass consumption of automobiles leads to air and land pollution. While emissions poison the air, masses of obsolete automobiles burden the landscape. In addition, automobiles stimulate the reckless use of oil, which is a non-renewable resource, and hazardous oil spills create environmental catastrophes. The effects of cars on daily life are also examined. Some of the less attractive products of the automobile are noise, road congestion and sprawl. Use of the automobile has led to a severe drop in daily activity, as people depend on their cars for journeys that may take them very short distances. Critically, the growing phenomenon of road rage is contributing to stress and aggressive behaviour. Meanwhile, automobile casualties have become a leading cause of death in many countries. In addition to providing information on the hazards of the automobile, the book highlights the
tremendous personal expense of driving. Tools are provided for readers to assess the diverse costs of driving in their own lives.

In addition to revealing the need for decreased car dependency, the book offers opportunities for action. As a practical guide, creative solutions are provided for facing the challenges of living car-free within a car-dependent society. Real life stories illustrate the ways in which people have separated from their cars, explored alternative forms of transportation and enjoyed the freedom of living without a car. Separate chapters extol the joys of walking, bike-riding and effective public transportation; alternative fuels are offered as possibilities for the car-dependent; and lifestyle changes, such as telecommuting, are considered as a means of reducing travel and possibly decreasing automobile dependency.

Available from: 
Order through bookshops or from New Society Publishers, P.O.Box 189 Gabriola Island, B.C. VOR 1X0, Canada or in the UK from Jon Carpenter Publishing, Alder House, Market Street, Charlbury, OX7 3PH, Credit Card orders in the UK 01689 870437. Price £13.99

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