There are Too Many Damn Cars!

Except, of Course, for the One You Happen to Own.

There are Too Many Damn Cars!

It’s something that almost everybody is willing to accept, a statement that’s about as controversial as “The Rent Is Too Damn High.” There are too many cars on the road. As we all know, they cause pollution and sprawl, and kill people. They also lead to congestion, which makes you late for work, school, or the doctor’s appointment. (Remember, though, you aren’t stuck in traffic—you are traffic.) We, and the planet, would be better off if there were fewer cars on the road, and more people could get around by transit, bicycle, wheelchair, or by foot. And, intellectually at least, people seem to understand the link between tailpipe emissions and global heating.

This summer, temperature records around the world are being shattered. The megadrought in the American southwest is being reclassified as full-on desertification. Last week, the historic capital of Hawaii was incinerated, and a hundred-plus lives lost, thanks to an unheard-of combination of intense dry winds and high temperatures. As I write this, the entire population of Yellowknife is being evacuated, as vast swaths of the Northwest Territories are gripped by an unstoppable blaze of massive proportions. In the north of Quebec, in the James Bay region, dozens of wildfires are currently burning.

Yet when somebody dares to connect the dots, and point out that if we really want to reduce emissions, we might actually have to reduce the number of vehicles on the road—starting, like, yesterday—all hell breaks loose.

This happened in my corner of North America, the province of Quebec, when the minister of the economy and innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon dared to say the following at a press conference this week: “I’m one of those people who believes in electric vehicles…Everything should be electric! But there should be half as many of them.” (By “them,” he meant cars.)

The minister’s statement made headlines in the Journal de Montréal (our version of the New York Post), and had the minister’s spokesperson hastily declaring that the provincial government had no actual plans to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads of Quebec. The following day, premier François Legault further walked back Fitzgibbon’s words: “We have to be realistic…It’s not up to the government to say who will drive what. People will do what they want. Those who want three [cars] will get three.”

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