Annie March’s wise words

April 20, 2013 at 1:54 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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My favourite newspaper is The Guardian Weekly. I tried googling Annie March, a woman after my own heart who writes the most wonderful letters sometimes, published in their Reply section. Google suggested Linked In but the illogical, Catch-22 nature of Linked In made it impossible to get her email address. (If I want to contact Annie March, ‘type in her email address here’: duh!) I love everything she writes. But she’s a Cassandra – no one will listen. So I wanted to spread a sample of her succinct and humane words of warning a little wider. They relate to Ivan Illich’s Energy and Equity section in my 27 April 2012 blog.

Annie March in The Guardian Weekly 5 may 2013, p. 23, wrote a letter entitled ‘The real cost of cars’, which points out what so few people see:
‘…The cult of privatised, instant mobility has a hideous underside: cars generate 20% of greenhouse gases; poison soil, water and air at all stages of their life cycle; drive oil wars; usurp 35% of urban land, turning our streets into noisy, dangerous rat-runs while forcing everyone to inhale their excretions; annually kill 1.2 million; and are complicit in the epidemics of asthma and obesity. There are a billion cars in the world; the number is growing exponentially.
Now it’s proposed, as an act of terminal and bloated self-indulgence, to turn these Molochs into giant smartphones. The mining and processing of the rare earths underpinning this technology have already turned Baotou in Mongolia into a noxious wasteland (Hunger for rare earths leaves toxic legacy, 10 August 2012). Coltan, another essential ingredient, fuels civil war in the Congo; in a brutal twist, Congolese women end up working as slaves in the coltan mines.
Cars not only displace their real cost on to less privileged humans and our 8bn co-species, but defraud and despoil the future; how can driving be freedom when it’s based on an ecocidal, fundamentalist lie? Fundamentalists can go to perdition any way they like, as long as they don’t take my children’s children with them.
How do we strip the glamour from cars? What’s the difference between driving in a public place and smoking in one? Cigarettes are at least silent.
We’re driving our way to extinction. Cars are incompatible with a healthy biosphere. They’re as small-brained and doomed as the dinosaurs; so are we, if we don’t break their addictive spell.’

On a lighter note, the phrase ‘a woman after my own heart’ recalls a funny comment made to me on a hot day recently. I’d got off the No 2 bus and was walking the long walk on concrete paths to tango class. Then I would be squeezing my hot feet into high heels. (One toe has a minor deformity which makes the foot half a size bigger than the other, so unless I’m wearing sandals or boots, it feels like the first stage of Chinese foot-binding on that side.)
I walked along in the heat, my feet swelling inside my sandal straps. Suddenly I saw a long stretch of beautifully green, cool, dewy-looking, shaded grass beside the footpath in front of a posh building, probably some legal firm that charges an arm and a leg, if you’ll pardon the cliché.
No one was around and I risked slipping off my sandals and sinking my feet into the coolness of that soft grass and walking through it in refreshingly cold bliss. Just then an immaculately coiffed woman in a charcoal grey suit and black high heels stepped out of that building looking as if she owned it. There were no signs saying ‘Don’t walk on the grass,’ but I felt as if I were trespassing. I thought she was going to reprimand me. But she said when she spotted me, ‘Ah, a woman after my own feet!’

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