Grantham Journal letter: Letting go of the car

Traffic in High Street, Grantham, taken from Newton and Fallowell offices.
Traffic in High Street, Grantham, taken from Newton and Fallowell offices.
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Thank you Grantham Journal for bringing Grantham’s traffic problems back on the Agenda. (Traffic is Choking Town - GJ Sept. 4th)

What a pity your front page picture seemed to suggest that buses and commercial vehicles are the cause of the problem, when in reality they are doing useful jobs.

I guess some 95 per cent of Journal readers will consider me a crank when I suggest that the real, deep-rooted cause of so many of our problems is that mental condition I call the Car-Indoctrinated Mind, which regards walking as an outdated optional extra to life, and personal ownership of a tonne of machinery and a steady supply as oil for ordinary daily life as ‘progress’. UGH!

How is it that the human race has, from time immemorial, achieved so much on its own feet, with just a few people moving around on horseback, private carriages or in boats, then more recently most of us walking or cycling or using buses and not-so-fast trains, and now in just over half a century we have set ourselves on a course of car-dedicated destruction of so much that really matters?

I wasn’t born yesterday. I am well aware of the comfort and convenience of the ever-ready car waiting outside the front door, and of the flawed claims from most of the world’s economists and politicians that our future depends upon an ever-expanding GDP-measured economy, and of the hundreds and thousands of UK households totally dependent for their daily bread and rent and mortgage payments on jobs within the car manufacturing and trading industries, and the billions of pounds this industry annually pumps into the world’s economies, and that a huge majority of the electorate are car-committed and car-dependent and thus has our society over a barrel. What a mess we are in! No wonder Fritz Schumacher referred to the western world’s lifestyle as a ‘Forward Stampede’ - and that was over 40 years ago.

There has to be a steady progressive way out of this mess that is acceptable all round, so that no-one’s livelihood is threatened and that ultimately enhances our quality of life.

From the world-wide medical profession itself comes some hard evidence - “Taking at least a 20-minute walk each day really does so much for our health” - yet so few of us will face the facts and strive to get the car out of our lives altogether and live as real human beings again, with a down-sized economy which is sufficient for our needs.

If I were an in-town trader, business man or employee dependant on car-enhanced customers, I would not like to hear any of this, but I hope I would have the good grace to at least pause for thought on these issues that affect all our lives.

none of this is rubbish talk. Although it may seem that the world has passed the point of no return, you only have to look at the work of the UK New Economics Foundation, the European Commission’s new ‘Beyond GDP’ initiative, Green Peace, the ‘20s Plenty Where People Live’ local Campaigns, the ‘Keep it in the Ground’ Campaign, the Permaculture movement, Friends of the Earth, the anti TTIP campaign, the Transition Towns movement, and so much more evidence of people world wide becoming aware of the basic truths, and at their own levels doing something about it. But none of this seems to have touched Grantham yet.

So now for something positive. Of the (my estimate) 5% of Grantham’s consumer-free and car-free minds, tuned in to the truth of the situation, are there sufficient of us to set up a pilot group to look into forming a Transition Grantham or a Schumacher Grantham or similar ‘Do Something’ group?

At this stage, in my view, to really take off, we need people already at least partly informed and aware of these truths, ready to develop forward movement locally. Public meetings and promotional events would hopefully come later. Contact me at jackginns@mail.com

John Ginns

Grantham