March 10, 1991


I am campaigning to stop all road construction around the world. Everyone is aware of the environmental costs of oil drilling, rainforest burning, and the automobile, but few people, even among environmentalists, have given much thought to the destructive power of road, highway, and freeway construction. Roads are taken for granted. Most people have allowed themselves to become so dependent on the automobile that the destruction caused by cars and roads has become invisible to them.

Roads are at the crux of almost every current environmental problem, and hence, halting the expansion of the highway system (and other parts of our auto-dependent culture) is one of the most effective spigots by which we can choke off environmental destruction.

The automobile (due to auto air conditioners) is the greatest threat in the U.S. to the ozone layer that protects all life on the Earth. It is also the largest U.S. contributor to global warming. Highways kill wildlife (including many endangered and threatened species) in huge numbers, both directly on the road and through habitat fragmentation and degradation. They are a big factor in the loss of biodiversity and its consequent extinctions. Highway expansion -- and the urban sprawl that it feeds -- destroys precious farmland and open spaces. It increases per capita energy consumption and pollutant emission. And, of course, it kills and maims thousands of us, too, every year (my own mom died in a highway accident in 1951). I have never heard this mentioned, but it is obvious that sprawl begets more sprawl, because people who grow up in an auto-dependent environment acquire the values that perpetuate it (have you ever heard of "cognitive dissonance"? -- people who invest a lot in something have a tendency to defend it).

It is impossible to drill for oil, log, or even deluge the wilderness with tourists without roads. Roads are key. And, of course, while diverting funds away from road construction, we can make them available to promote (in order of priority) walking, bicycling, rail, and buses (or even to pay off the national debt or house the homeless -- equally worthy causes).

Please accept the enclosed information and help me spread it as far and widely as possible. If you are fighting against road construction in your area, please let me know if I can help you in any way. In the San Francisco Bay Area, I and my friends have managed to bring all freeway construction to a halt (at least temporarily) via a lawsuit under the federal Clean Air Act. If you have information about the environmental effects of highway expansion, I would appreciate it very much if you could send me a copy of it.


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.


Cities and Automobile Dependence. An International Sourcebook, Peter W. Newman and Jeff Kenworthy, Gower Publishing Co.,Old Post Road, Brookfield, VT 05036, c.1989 ($79.95)

Transport Energy Conservation Policies for Australian Cities. Strategies for Reducing Automobile Dependence. Peter Newman, Jeff Kenworthy, and Tom Lyons, Institute of Science and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Western Australia 6150 (1990)

"The Solution to Route 20 and a New Vision for Brisbane", Citizens Against Route Twenty, 50 Exeter St., Ashgrove Qld 4060, Australia ($19)

"Getting the Most out of California's Transportation Dollar", Senate Advisory Commission on Cost Control in [CA] State Government, Milton G. Gordon, Chair, 1990 [available from Joint Publications, State Capitol, Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001 for $4.60 + sales tax)]

Stanley Hart, "Huge City Subsidies for Autos, Trucks", California Transit, July-Sept., 1986.

Jill Jaeger, "Developing Policies for Responding to Climatic Change", World Meteorological Organization, April, 1988.

P.W.G. Newman and J.R. Kenworthy, "The use and abuse of driving cycle research: clarifying the relationship between traffic congestion, energy and emissions", Transportation Quarterly, Vol.

38, 1984, 615-635.

P.W.G Newman, J.R. Kenworthy, and T.J. Lyons, "Does Free-Flowing Traffic Save Energy and Lower Emissions in Cities?", Search, Vol. 19, No.5/6, September/November, 1988.

P.W.G Newman, J.R. Kenworthy, and T.J. Lyons, "Transport Energy Conservation Policies for Australian Cities", End of Grant Report, Project No. 836, August, 1987.

J.R. Kenworthy, H. Rainford, P.W.G. Newman, and T.J. Lyons, "Fuel Consumption, Time Saving and Freeway Speed Limits", Traffic Engineering and Control, September, 1986.