My home town of Bristol is divided as the Mayor George Ferguson pushes on with the introduction of a Residential Parking Scheme. The question has to be, is this the beginning of the end or a step in the right direction?
The scheme in itself is an attempt to stem the amount of commuters coming into areas in the city centre and its neighbouring areas. Having lived in Beauley Road, Southville for many years I can tell you that there is a parking problem definitely due to both commuters and households having one car per person or more. I welcome the trial of this scheme and although I am currently not a car owner myself, friends and family still do and live in the affected areas. After speaking to them I know there is a lot of scepticism, but how will we know it isn’t working unless we try? There is a 6 month review, so if it’s not working then it can be removed and the free for all can begin again.
Having read around the subject I came across a blog post by Ian Walker, and in it he brilliantly wrote:
“I’ve got a really big wooden crate — it’s a little over 4 metres long and just under 2 metres wide — and it won’t fit in my house. I’m the only person who gets any benefit from my having this crate — indeed, my ownership of the crate is actually bad for you. I didn’t really care about the fact I had nowhere to keep the crate when I bought it; I wanted it and so I got it anyway. So now, because it won’t fit in my house, I’m just going to leave it in the street. It’ll block half of the road, but so what? I need somewhere to keep my crate and that’s where it’s going.
If you heard me say this, you would quite rightly brand me a selfish bastard who deserves to be beaten soundly with rolled-up copies of the Daily Mail until I learnt a little civic responsibility. But hold fast! What if, instead of a crate, it was a saloon car I was talking about? A car has exactly the same dimensions as my crate, but you’d think absolutely nothing of my saying “I don’t have anywhere to store my car and I knew this when I bought it, but I’m just going to leave it in the street where it’ll block half the road“. (see full article here)
I read this and must admit I suddenly thought: we as a race are particularly selfish aren’t we? Now, I am a humanist and I believe that sooner or later we need to start working together as a race of humans, rather that continuing with global divide and finger pointing (what a ridiculous idea hey?). Having spoken to a few local residents, who to be fair aren’t even affected by the scheme, most believe it was outrageous as we should be allowed to buy our cars and park them wherever we like. If this is the case, what else should we be allowed to do? We are currently very unrestricted in what we can and cannot do – the law serves to protect us more than restrict us, and in general we are pretty much free to do what we want.
We are free to work as hard as we like, we are free to have as many kids as we like. We can own sections of land, personal transport and vote for our chosen Government to lead the country (let’s not delve into the democracy issues we currently face in our country this time around). Remember there are other countries out there where this is not allowed. In some areas of the world, thinking for yourself and having your own opinion is a very good way to end up in a dire situation that pretty much most of the people in the UK rarely even have to think about, let alone consider becoming a reality. Yet it appears we still want more, we are not willing to compromise and make sacrifices that we will inevitably have to as we continue to deplete the earth’s resources.
I am very much aware that I am sat with a nice cup of tea, on a computer with the freedom to type whatever I want (as long as I don’t get into trouble) so I am most definitely part of this psychology. However, read a few articles on overpopulation and suddenly things start to take a rather twisted turn. If overpopulation was to take effect then it certainly wouldn’t be for a few hundred years (at the latest estimation) but considering how old the earth is, it really isn’t that far away at all. We are currently at 7bn people in the world and it would take somewhere between 8 -16bn to finally leave the world in a position where there are too many people and not enough resources.
In some countries, this is a reality right now. In Africa and India vast sections of their countries suffer from malnutrition due to lack of resources. There are figures that suggest Africa will have just 25% of the required resources for the entire continent by 2025 and Japan may be about to hit a food crisis that would drive them back to the rationing of food from the 1950’s. Just take that into consideration for a moment and think of your daily food intake and remove 75% of it. Suddenly feeling a mix of being hungry and not so hungry, right?
Now it’s not all doom and gloom of course. There are lots of people that believe technology will save the day and that the earth has many times been close to tipping on it’s carrying capacity – which is “when a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment”. Each time it has come close technology has provided us with the opportunity to steer clear.
One example of this was the huge food crisis between 1958 and 1961 in China, however the advancement of technology and the introduction of their one child policy now has them through that and avoiding a similar famine. It should also be noted, however, that during this time there were 20 million people starving in China. That’s the equivalent of just under a third of the UK suddenly hitting starvation. Is that a price we want to pay to learn a really tough lesson? Or should we be proactive and maybe keep a closer eye on the general population numbers and their predictive rise? It’s very true that our population density is closer to Germany than it is China and that we do not have anything to immediately fear..
But when we can’t even accept that the number of cars has risen too much for our tiny little Bristol City Centre, or be prepared to make a small sacrifice to make it better for the overall population of the city, what happens when it comes to the time when we have to make a lot of even tougher decisions? When are we going to be ok with compromise?