#Weeknotes 33 (3 Sept) — Obsessions over possessions
We’re living in an era where stuff is abundant. We’ve often been told that more is better. Since industrialisation, we became more efficient in producing stuff in larger quantities, that are of better quality, and at cheaper costs. As a consequence, it is easier to acquire and own more stuff than ever before.
Whenever I think about all the things I own but don’t need (such as regretful impulse purchases and single-use items), I feel nauseous. The excess amount of stuff that is mostly rubbish just lying around collecting dust and with the naive hope that perhaps one day they’ll be of use again. I have yet to find a reason to reuse the dozens of flowery Hawaiian necklaces I bought on a whim for my 30th birthday celebration party. That’s a sign of hoarding, isn’t it? 😬
As much as I am attracted to a more minimal way of living and Marie’s art of tidying up, I found they’re incredibly difficult to live by and apply in reality. Or perhaps I just lack the willpower and determination to make a big change. Yea that’s probably it.
I listened to a TED talk by Freeman Shen on “A future with fewer cars” today and it reminded me yet again to question some of the things that I no longer stop and think about. Such as owning a car will give one the best mobility and flexibility. When you own a car, you no longer need to rely on public transit and work within fixed operating hours, or around maintenance and repairs. I know it well as I’ve been transiting since I was barely a teen. The journeys are long and it can be a real pain when things go wrong. Don’t get me started on the experience of city centre peak hour travelling in the London tubes.
My partner and I have a 7 seater car which we love (except for the fact it’s diesel and was bought way back when the negative impact of diesel wasn’t widely known). We went on many holidays in that car, shopping trips, and countless school drop-offs and pickups. Travel logistics would be a lot more complicated if we didn’t have a car of our own.
Sven calculated that for our trip to Wales and Scotland this year, the carbon emission from the car along would be between 0.7–1 ton. According to Pawprint.eco, the average carbon footprint per person is 7 tonnes CO2e per year. It also states that to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carve the path to Net Zero, we need to aim for a max 5-tonne lifestyle. That is, reaching a maximum personal emissions total of five tonnes CO2e per year. UK’s per person average is 12.7 tonnes CO2e. Yikes.
It’s clear that if we continued our current way of life, it will not be sustainable.
To ease our conscience just a little, Sven had a great idea for us to get involved with OneTreePlanted.org and donate money to plant enough trees to restore and conserve nature for biodiversity while also supporting local communities to offset our carbon emissions for the trip.
Despite the environmental costs, having a car still seems most practical, but is ownership the only way to get the maximum benefits of a car?
In Freeman’s talk, he sees our future as having fewer cars and better cars that don’t need ownership and at the same time can eliminate a lot of problems that cars currently cause, like smog, traffic congestion, accidents and finding parking. And it sounds amazing.
We’re already seeing artificial intelligence being built into cars. Parking can always cause a great deal of anxiety. I do love the auto parking features that come with many modern cars. Freeman sees the cars taking it a step further. He talks about using cars like rideshare like Uber.
Access to cars will be prioritised over ownership. This means, when you need a car it’ll show up right where you are, take you where you and your group need to go, then move on to the next group. The cars will go charge themselves when low on power and will plug back to the grid network of ride demands when they’re in good shape. No more trying to figure where to park, no need for so many parking lots even, as the cars will be in use the majority of the time. With the cars being smarter and more autonomous and connected, there’ll be less congestion and accidents, creating safer spaces. No more needing to learn all the road signs, or having to drive when tired, or trying to figure out how to get from one place to another most effectively, the smart autonomous cars can do it all.
Freeman also gave a great example scenario that showcases this future autonomous car potential: Imagine a person is hurt and need to be taken to the hospital right away. This future autonomous car would not only take the person to the hospital but also send the patient information and condition to the hospital ahead of time and alert the hospital staff to prepare any necessary equipment in advance. It can alert the city’s traffic network that it’s taking someone in need of medical attention and the car will have an automatic ‘right of way’ status with its route ‘green-lit’ such that they can get to the hospital quicker. How many lives would that save I wonder?
The future might just have fewer cars but it’ll be more effective, green, and safe. I can see myself in that kind of future.
Freeman thinks that the future is already within reach. They’re already experimenting in cities in China with much success. How exciting. It certainly seems that the benefits outweigh the bad!
And why not? With Airbnbs, house swaps, car and bike shares, the sharing economy is already upon us. Why not take a step further and revolutionise car ownership too? I’m quite happy to see fewer parked cars taking up space that could be repurposed for safer walkways and open green spaces! As much as we love our Ford, I’m willing to let it go if it means not having to maintain it, upkeep it, or deal with flat tires and insurance.
Even better if the idea of ownership for many of other things in our lives also gets done away. If I can fit everything I absolutely need in a large suitcase, wouldn’t that feel so free! Until then, it’s looking like the next home we move into will need to be bigger so it can house our ever-growing amount of stuff we can’t seem to let go of…