April 28, 1990

The Editor

Berkeley Voice

2936 Domingo Avenue

Berkeley, California 94705

Re: Automobile News -- A Word to the Wise


I am sure that a large constituency appreciates the Auto section of the Voice and David Fetherston's fine column, "Auto Scene". But let's think ahead. The United Nations has concluded that the only way we can avoid the devastating effects of a global warming is to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 50%. The federal clean air act requires a large reduction in the number and length of auto trips, and the California Clean Air Act will require even more (instant conversion of our entire fleet to renewable energy sources doesn't seem immanent). Ozone depletion (in the U.S., due mostly to automobile air conditioners) is already causing an epidemic of skin cancer in California.

Traffic accidents, farmland and crop destruction, urban sprawl, and noise, water, and air pollution are just a few of the other damaging effects of the automobile and its relatives.

These are obviously gigantic problems that no single act can solve. On the other hand, everyone can (and must) play a significant role. Mine is to not own a car and travel almost exclusively by foot, bicycle, and public transit. Yours could be replacing your outmoded "Auto" section of the paper by one that would help Berkeley residents move gracefully into the next age, which will of necessity be based on the exclusive use of renewable energy sources. The automobile will soon have a much smaller part in our lives (the sooner, the better!).

I would love to read in the Voice about the latest developments in foot, bicycle, rail, and bus transportation. How do people in our sister cities get around? How can we benefit from unused garage- and parking space? What are the "hot stocks" in the low-pollution transportation industry? How can environment-conscious individuals find like-minded employers? What tax- and other financial benefits are to be had by people who make lifestyle changes? What walking shoes last the longest? What are the advantages of not owning a car? (I have a lot to say about that one.)


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.