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Life in the perfect world

Updated Tuesday, 9th August 2005

David Goldblatt began life as a medical student and ended up with a degree in Sociology. After finishing a PhD in Social Theory and the Environment, he went on to lecture at The Open University. Recent research interests include the environmental history of capitalism and the politics of the good life. So Ever Wondered sent him out to find if there is such a thing as a perfect world

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David Goldblatt Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

"Go on admit it. In a perfect world, you’d all want a fast sleek car. You try to suppress it but it’s dying to get out - you all want to burn some rubber. So, why not indulge it?

Well, let’s try a little thought experiment. Imagine in a perfect world everybody gets a car. What would the world look like? Let’s dispense with the tiresome environmental argument and assume that cars could be technologically transformed, and that they can run all year on two oranges or an old teabag. Not likely, but for the purposes of this experiment let’s assume that global warming is solved.

Motorway So the environment is saved from car exhaust fumes. But think of it, there are already 28 million cars on the road in Britain. Imagine just for starters, if every driving licence holder had a car, there’d be over 40 million of them. The car would dominate everything.

So what exactly will that mean?

Well first up, you can forget about outdoor markets, or bicycles, there won’t be any space for these, because as car numbers swell, public transport will die, and street life will dwindle. Quiet streets will be a thing of the past.

If you think that’s bad, it gets worse.

Suburbs will take over the world. They will drain jobs and people from the cities at one end, and eat up the countryside at the other end to accommodate them. I’m not saying the suburbs are necessarily bad, but if there was only suburb, no city, no countryside, there’s no diversity, just row after row of suburban housing. If we’re all so spread out in the suburbs, what chance is there of bumping into your neighbour or a spontaneous meeting in the street?

Woman at computer screen In this perfect car-full world, virtual chat, virtual communities, virtual life, may be the best we can get".



Perhaps you would like to learn more about chemical ideas such as how do you choose an alternative fuel for cars? Then have a look at course ST240 Our Chemical Environment
And here are some more ways to enhance your understanding:

Books you can read
’The Car and the City: The Automobile, the Built Environment, and Daily Urban Life’, Martin Wachs, Univ of Michigan, ISBN 0472094599

’Air Pollution, the Automobile, and Public Health’, Donald Kennedy, National Academy Press, ISBN 0309037263

’Motor Vehicle Pollution: Reduction Strategies beyond 2010’, Peter Wiederkehr, Organisation for Economic, ISBN 926414312

’Handbook of Air Pollution from Internal Combustion Engines: Pollution Formation and Control’, Eran Sher, Academic Press, ISBN 0126398550

Links you can surf

Department of the Environment,Transport and the regions
Environmental Transport Association

Also on this site : You can join Jenny Eclair as she finds out whether her home is her perfect world and Ian Hislop travels to Amercia to find modern Utopia

If you think you might be interested in studying more about these subjects, find out what the Open University has to offer.





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