Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

Global Warming – Climate Change – Eco-Fascism

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With the science of climate change and global warming under attack as Australia experiences bushfires not seen before in scope and intensity, there are now clear links between white nationalism and niche environmentalism, or ‘eco-fascism’.  According to many this has included long term support from fossil fuels oligarchs’ foundations in promoting eugenics and anti-immigrant sentiment as an ecological solution.

Parts of the environmental movement are linked to white nationalists and eugenics.

Fossil Fuels and Eco-Fascism (Image copyright Pexels)

Jeff Sparrow in The Guardian Australia presents a summary of his recent book Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre below:

 

‘Eco-fascists and the ugly fight for ‘our way of life’ as the environment disintegrates

Genuine fascists remain on the political margins, but we can increasingly imagine the space that eco-fascism might occupy.

Earlier this year, when the fascist responsible for the El Paso massacre cited ecological degradation as part motivation for his killing spree, many considered him entirely deranged.

Eco-fascism sounds oxymoronic, a mashup of irreconcilable philosophies.

Yet, while eco-fascists violently oppose contemporary environmentalists, they often appropriate ideas from the past of the environmental movement.

In the United States, the first conservationists – men like Teddy Roosevelt – were wealthy big-game hunters trying to preserve creatures they liked to shoot.

These elite enthusiasts for “the manly sport with the rifle” blamed impoverished arrivals from eastern and central Europe for “pot hunting” – that is, for killing game for food or money rather than for fun. But they also saw immigrants as polluting America’s racial stock, making an explicit parallel between “lesser races” and the invasive species threatening native animals and plants.

On that basis, Julia Scott from the Daughters of the American Revolution could speak at the National Conservation Congress of 1910, urging attendees not only to protect flora and fauna but to conserve “the supremacy of the Caucasian race in our land”.

You can get a sense of the centrality of eugenic theory to the early movement from the career of Madison Grant, the most important environmentalist of his generation.

We can thank Grant for saving the American bison, the bald eagle, the pronghorn antelope, the Alaskan bear and the fur seal, as well as, according to his biographer, contributing to the preservation of elephants, gorillas, koalas and many other charismatic species.

But Grant also campaigned for the racist Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, and wrote the bestselling The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History, an impassioned defence of white supremacy that Hitler described as his personal “bible”.

The book’s popularity in Germany was not coincidental. Grant, like many of his colleagues, derived his environmentalism from a conservative Romanticism, the philosophical source for Nazi concepts about the importance of Lebensraum (living room) and Blut und Boden (blood and soil).

Modern eco-fascists still draw on the same Romantic contrast between the sublime hierarchies of nature and the supposedly effete degeneracy of modernity.

They also exploit the legacy of a tendency influential in environmental circles in much more recent times.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published a book called The Population Bomb, in which he argued that ecological destruction – and, indeed, almost all social problems – could be attributed to overpopulation.

As the historian Thomas Robertson notes, few signs of a mass environmental movement existed when The Population Bomb first appeared. Yet, “by the spring of 1970, Americans could hardly pick up a magazine or a newspaper without seeing mention of ecology and the environment”. That year, the first Earth Day attracted an astonishing 20 million people to environmental teach-ins, a result attributable at least in part to Ehrlich.

Today, his influence – and that of population theory more generally – has waned considerably, not least because the rate of world population growth has slowed substantially while his predictions of ever-worsening famines in the 1970s proved spectacularly wrong.

But progressive environmentalists also recognised the succour populationism provided to the extreme right.

The attribution of ecological destruction to demographic growth obscures the social relations through which, for instance, a mere 20 fossil fuel companies can be linked to more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

Worse still, arguments that (in theory) blame all people often (in practice) target particular people: usually the poor and the oppressed.

The Population Bomb itself opened with Ehrlich describing how he’d understood the case for population control “emotionally” during a visit to Delhi where, he said, the streets “seemed alive with people” and the “dust, noise, heat and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect”. At the time, Delhi housed some 2.8 million while the population of Paris stood at about eight million – and yet it would be difficult to imagine Ehrlich reacting with equivalent disgust to crowds on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Other populationists came to oppose not just fertility but also immigration, on the basis that, if the teeming masses from poor nations moved to the rich world, they’d adopt a western resource-heavy lifestyle. As a result, as academics Sebastian Normandin and Sean A Valles argue, America’s modern anti-immigrant movement “was built and led by – and in some cases is still led by – a network of conservationists and population control activists”.

The vast majority of greens now disavow the environmental populationist John Tanton, who, according to Susan A Berger, constructed many of the anti-Mexican organisations relied upon by Donald Trump as he electioneered for his border wall during the 2016 poll.

Yet the argument that ordinary people, rather than social structures, should be blamed for climate change still circulates – and invariably pushes in rightwing directions.

Think of the El Paso shooter and the document in which he justified his racial massacre.

“If we can get rid of enough people,” he wrote, “then our way of life can become more sustainable.”

The glibness with which he advocates environmental murder marks the El Paso perpetrator as distinctly fascist.

Fortunately, genuine fascists remain on the political margins in the English-speaking world. Nevertheless, we can increasingly imagine the space that eco-fascism might occupy. When asylum seekers fleeing floods and famines arrive on Australian shores in their millions, how will politicians respond?

Unless there’s a radical shift in the political culture, they will, presumably, rely upon the strategies perfected during decades of bipartisan anti-refugee campaigning, deploying the familiar arsenal of boat turnbacks, naval patrols and offshore detention, albeit on a much, much larger scale.

In other words, they’ll embrace an approach already advocated by European racist populists like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, who posits massively intensified border policing as a “realistic” response to the inevitability of the environmental disaster.

Just as the stop-the-boats campaigners of recent decades depict refugee advocates as indifferent to drownings at sea, the supporters of “green” border policing will denounce climate activists for sabotaging “practical” responses to climate change with their utopianism.

It’s not difficult to imagine “eco-authoritarianism” or what Naomi Klein calls “climate barbarism”: a politics centred on the state making “our way of life” sustainable as the environment disintegrates. Future governments committed to this project will be able to draw upon the vast array of coercive powers they’ve acquired over the past decades: draconian anti-protest laws; secret trials and imprisonment; the deployment of the army to quell civil disturbances; and so on.

Eco-fascism represents a related but distinctive tendency. It will emerge not through the state but as a political movement, with people like the El Paso perpetrator violently defending climate privilege against immigrants, environmentalists and progressives.

We’re nowhere near that point yet. But it’s a lot less unimaginable than it should be.

Jeff Sparrow’s new book, Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre, is out now through Scribe.’

 

For more blogs and articles about white nationalism, environment and population growth click through.

Tourism Australia Marketing Campaigns

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Australian tourism campaigns have often been in the news, sometimes for good reasons attracting attention, other times questions about the campaigns including the most recent ‘Philausophy‘.

Tourism Australia's latest campaign 'Philausophy' attracts criticism.

Tourism Australia Marketing Campaigns (Image copyright Pexels)

The ‘Philausophy’ campaign is self-indulgent wank, and a crime against Australia

Tourism Australia’s latest ‘Philausophy’ campaign has “desecrated” Australia and is appalling, self-indulgent wank, according to creative director and senior copywriter Mark Farrelly.

November 1, 2019 10:52

by MARK FARRELLY

What happens when you give a government department $38m dollars of our money? You get a pile of self-indulgent wank that’s an embarrassment to our nation.

You would think after the unmitigated disaster that was ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’, Tourism Australia would have learnt a lesson. But clearly, it did not.

The campaign after that was completely forgettable. Can you remember it? Bet you can’t. It passed like a ship in the night. The only thing memorable about it was the fact its weak, pathetic slogan was grammatically wrong.

There’s nothing like Australia? No people. Australia is a place. A location. It is somewhere, not something.

There’s nowhere like Australia would have made sense. I’m not saying that’s great. But it’s okay.

Rule one of tourism advertising: you are advertising a destination.

So it’s not surprising that when you have a team of people so unable to use even basic English, they are going to come up with something even more appalling than before…

…The campaign after that was completely forgettable. Can you remember it? Bet you can’t. It passed like a ship in the night. The only thing memorable about it was the fact its weak, pathetic slogan was grammatically wrong.

There’s nothing like Australia? No people. Australia is a place. A location. It is somewhere, not something.

There’s nowhere like Australia would have made sense. I’m not saying that’s great. But it’s okay.

Rule one of tourism advertising: you are advertising a destination.

So it’s not surprising that when you have a team of people so unable to use even basic English, they are going to come up with something even more appalling than before.’

 

What had happened before?

 

Tourism Australia looks beyond ‘controversial campaign

‘”Where the bloody hell are you?” has gone the way of the “shrimp on the barbie” – into the dustbin of advertising history.

It is two years since the Government unveiled the confrontational slogan to sledge people into coming to Australia, and now it is being dropped.

The $180 million campaign generated much publicity around the world but did not generate any major increase in visitor numbers.

Tourism Australia is also set to review its contracts with advertising agencies as it opens one of the country’s largest advertising accounts to tender.’

 

What is the issue or challenge round tourism marketing?

 

The Best Job in the World” & Beyond in a Brave New Marketing World

“Not since Willy Wonka and the golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars, has something come along like this.” Editor, The Sunday Times, United Kingdom

Investing heavily in content but not communication channels to reach prospective tourists, however, Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ did gain attention globally through having travellers create the content.

The challenge was to convey to the rest of the world, in an already saturated global travel market, that surrounding this vibrant living organism was tangible product and a new tourism story for Australia…

….By the end of 2008 the groundwork was laid, the tourism regions and operators along the 2300 kilometre of the Great Barrier Reef had come on board under the “Islands of the Great Barrier Reef” banner, we had agreement from our international travel partners to start including Islands of the Great Barrier Reef product into their packages and marketing collateral had been produced.  Now all we needed was an idea or a “hook” to sell the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef to the world.

Stage two was the big idea itself.  Brisbane-based creative agency SapientNitro was given a brief to devise a campaign to promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.  While several ideas were floated we realised that “The Best Job in the World” was The One; a dream job offering one candidate something priceless, the role of Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef with six months to explore the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef while based in a luxury house on Hamilton Island for a pay cheque of AUD150,000.

While the caretaker’s duties, cleaning the pool, feeding the fish and collecting the mail, were tongue-in-cheek, for the campaign to work, it needed to be a real job…..

….Then on a cold January morning they opened up the newspaper or turned on the television and were hit by a ray of Queensland sunshine; an advertisement for “the best job in the world” with the initial criteria of “anyone can apply”.  The application process simply asked people from around the world to submit a one minute video of themselves telling Tourism Queensland why they deserved the best job in the world….

….On 6 May 2009, Ben Southall, a 34-year-old British charity events organiser, was announced as the successful candidate for “the best job in the world”.  In the first 24 hours of his announcement as the successful candidate, Ben undertook more than 100 media interviews and featured in news stories around the globe.

Two months later on 1 July 2009, Ben started his role as the Caretaker for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.  During his stint he visited almost 100 Queensland destinations, fielded more than 450 media interviews and posted more than 60 blogs of 75,000 words, 2,000 photographs, 47 video diaries and more than 1,000 tweets….

….The estimated publicity value of the campaign topped AUD430 million and penetrated almost every country on earth.  Not bad for an investment of around AUD4 million over the three-year life of the campaign.’

 

Ongoing issue of direct communication with prospective tourists

 

Campaign fantastic but let down by one oversight by QLD Tourism, no direct channel via their global web presence to contact or make an enquiry in one’s own language, locally.  However, this is where Tourism Australia has been quietly creating a global web presence and physically through local travel and related representatives trained as ‘Aussie Specialists’ with resources made available online via ‘Aussie Specialists Club’.

As important, mostly ignored, are the significant digital marketing resource created by Aussie Specialists developing their own web presence targeting geographic, cultural and linguistic regions.

Result?

Most related web searches would find the relevant Tourism Australia website then finding travel planning and an Aussie Specialist travel agent would only be three clicks away; digital marketing 101.

For more blogs and articles about digital marketing and marketing strategy click through.

 

 

 

 

 

Globalisation of Islamophobia and Antisemitism by White Nationalists

In recent years both Islamophobia and antisemitism have come to the fore in US, UK, Australian and European politics, media and social narratives, emanating from white nationalism, conspiracy theories and Nazi ideology.

Following are excerpts from an article by Nafeez Ahmed explaining the co-dependence and shared ideology of Islamophobia and antisemitism in the US white nationalist movement, now in the mainstream and coursing through social narratives including the ‘great replacement’ theory.

From the Foreign Policy in Focus:

Behind Islamophobia Is a Global Movement of Antisemites

By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

The global rise of white nationalist violence proves that the threat of fascism is not just
about one community — it threatens all communities: white people, black people,
Muslims, Jews, and beyond.

The spate of mass shootings at the end of July comes head on the heels of an escalating epidemic of U.S. gun violence. Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 257 mass shootings, which have killed 9,080 people. This is nearly triple the number of people that died on 9/1 1 , the terrorist attack which justified U.S.-led wars that have killed at least a million people.

Over the last decade, nearly three quarters of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been
linked to domestic right-wing extremists, with just a quarter linked to Islamists. And in
201 8, every terrorist murder in the U.S. was linked to the extreme right.

The ideology of extreme white nationalism is now a bigger U.S. national security threat,
and a bigger cause of death, than Islamist terrorism or immigration. Yet millions of white
Americans have been brainwashed into believing the exact opposite….

 

The shared ideology of global white nationalism

In one of these tweets, Hopkins openly endorsed the rise of extreme nationalist
politicians around the world, including Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, and leader of the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

All four politicians have promoted divisive, xenophobic policies….

 

The making of the ‘great replacement’ mythology

It is now widely recognized that at the core of this shared far-right ideology is the so called “great replacement” theory, which posits that a genocide of white people is being achieved through their replacement by migrants, mostly from Muslim countries (or, in the United States, from Latin America).

The overlapping xenophobic agendas of these politicians illustrates how latent Antisemitism remains a driving force in this global movement, which nevertheless masquerades under the guise of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment as a mechanism to achieve mainstream reach…

…In short, the focus on a “Muslim invasion” through a combination of mass immigration and birth rates allowed far-right groups inspired by neo-Nazi ideas to rehabilitate themselves and conceal their traditional anti-Semitic roots.

It is no surprise then to see that many of the groups that have played the biggest role in
spreading the core tenets of the “great replacement” mythology through the specter of a
global Islamist conspiracy are simultaneously allied with longstanding white nationalist
movements…

 

Widening the net

After 9/1 1 , the U.S. government launched a major multi-agency investigation into
terrorism financing across multiple agencies known as Operation Green Quest, focused
on uncovering Muslim charities operating as “front organizations” for terrorists.
The problem was that U.S. government agencies like the Treasury Department, FBI and
many others had a nebulous and weak understanding of the Muslim world, often leading investigators to see connections and ties which were not there and to read conspiratorial meaning into every association or relationship that might potentially link individuals or organizations to extremism — however tenuous….

 

Far-right penetration of the FBI

Indeed, part of the problem is that for years the FBI has suffered from institutional
Islamophobia.

FBI training manuals obtained by Spencer Ackerman for Wired revealed that after 9/1 1
the agency was teaching its counter terrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American
Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult
leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding
mechanism for combat.” And “combat” can include numerous techniques including
“immigration” and “law suits”. Thus, a Muslim who immigrates to the U.S. or sues the FBI
for harassment is seen as just another agent of the jihad….Rather the “Muslim invasion” narrative is central to the goal of legitimizing a broad, xenophobic agenda rooted in anti-Semitic movements historically aligned with neo Nazism.

The alliance between Islamophobes and anti-Semites

That is why so many of the same groups promoting Islamophobic myths play a lead role
in amplifying white nationalist concepts…..

….I described this alarming phenomenon as a form of “reconstructed-Nazism,” “indicating that the core ideology [of the global far-right] embraces core Nazi principles, but embeds them in a range of cosmetic narrative adjustments which allow those principles to function subliminally in a new post war, anti-Nazi, and post-9/1 1 global cosmopolitan context.”…

Conclusion

…The upshot of this is clear: Jews and Muslims cannot afford to be at loggerheads in the fight against fascism. Both communities are in the firing line of a global far-right agenda advanced by groups and political parties forged in the historic bowels of Nazism.

Whatever their political differences and disagreements, both communities need to forge
bonds of solidarity in the struggle against racism. If they are to survive, our communities
have no choice but to resist being distracted by efforts to divide us and turn us against
each other, which is a deliberate far-right strategy to debilitate both Jewish and Muslim communities. Instead, we need to identify new lines of strategic cooperation to resist and disrupt a global far-right movement which threatens not only our communities, but the very foundations of our democracies.

This means that no matter what our political leanings might be, the struggles against
Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are fundamentally about the same thing: protecting
diverse, inclusive, and free societies.’

For more articles and blogs about the political issues regarding immigration, population growth, white nationalism etc. click through.

Cars Killing Cities and Citizens

Article discussing issues, assumptions, entitlement and habits round the use of motor cars or vehicles in urban areas in America, same issues exist in Australia.  Often if not always accidents, injuries, deaths, more roads, car parks, traffic congestion, bitumen or asphalt, fossil fuels and pollution are never questioned or linked to car usage.  However, if question do arise about pollution, traffic congestion etc. the deflection used is blaming ‘immigration’ or ‘population growth‘ rather than focus upon the incentives e.g. salary package tax breaks and lack of disincentives e.g. discouraging private motor vehicle usage.

Car or vehicle usage and infrastructure costs not questioned

Cars, Roads and Fossil Fuels (Image copyright Pexels)

From The Week: ‘American cities need to phase out cars

Ryan Cooper

August 19, 2019

On August 12, a man named Umar Baig was driving illegally in Brooklyn — speeding his Dodge Charger down Coney Island Avenue far, far above the speed limit of 25 miles per hour. At the intersection with Avenue L, he ran a red light, and smashed directly into the side of a Honda SUV.

The collision was so violent that Baig’s car lifted the Honda completely off the ground for a split second in the process of flinging it at high speed across the oncoming lanes of Coney Island Avenue — where the SUV crushed a cyclist named Jose Alzorriz, who had just pulled up to wait for the red light Baig blew through. Bystanders lifted the car off him, but Alzorriz later died of his injuries. (A pedestrian and the Honda’s driver were also injured, but not fatally).

This was the 19th cyclist killed by a car in New York City so far in 2019, in addition to 69 pedestrians — as compared to 10 and 107 respectively in the whole of 2018. For reasons of safety and basic urban functionality, it’s time to start banning private automobiles from America’s urban cores.

The basic problem with cars in a dense urban setting like New York is that they go too fast and take up too much space. Dense cities are enormously more energy efficient than sprawling suburbs or exurbs because apartment buildings and row houses are far more efficient to heat and cool than single-family homes (due to shared walls), larger enterprises can take advantage of efficiencies of scale, and because lots of people packed into a small area enables highly-efficient mass transit. New Yorkers emit only about 2.3 tons of carbon dioxide per person, as compared to 45 tons from residents of Flagstaff, Arizona.

A car-centered transportation system is simply at odds with the logic of a dense city. For commuters, cars take up a huge volume of space being parked at home and at work. On the road, a lane of highway traffic can transport about 3,000 people per hour under perfect conditions, while a subway can easily manage 10 times that — and many do even better. And while subways can be delayed, conditions are rarely ideal on the highway — on the contrary, every day at rush hour most are jammed to a crawl with too many cars, or slowed by some gruesome accident.

What’s more, the terrible toll of injuries and deaths inflicted on New York’s cyclists and pedestrians this year is simply what happens when one allows cars to roam free in cities. It is highly risky to allow huge, heavy steel cages capable of high speeds to be flying around crowds of delicate human bodies. It takes only a slight error or moment of inattention to get someone brutally killed.

Yet America’s urban centers were still rent asunder during its great mid-20th century car bender. Large swathes of our finest cities were eviscerated to make way for filthy, dangerous freeways, and hideous parking lots and garages. New cities were built entirely around this new transport paradigm, eating up vast quantities of land and forcing millions upon millions of people to spend hours every day stuck in traffic. Cars became a near requirement for most Americans, even in relatively dense metros.

This has left many American cities and neighborhoods without high-quality public transit, even where density is high enough that it could be supported. Big chunks of D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and many other places are stuck in a sort of no-man’s-land where bus and train service aren’t good enough to enable a truly car-free lifestyle for most residents — but driving and parking are still a monumental inconvenience.

All this is why American cities should follow the lead of European cities like Oslo and Brussels, and start phasing out private cars in their central cities…..

…..All this would be expensive and difficult in many cities, but the bigger obstacle is cultural. Even in New York, the only city in America where a majority of households do not own a car, laws are so ludicrously biased in favor of drivers that police and prosecutors are struggling to find a way to charge Umar Baig with a serious crime. A proposal to ban private vehicles from just a few blocks of the clogged 14th Street in lower Manhattan to improve bus service inspired screaming outrage from the reactionary New York Post, and has been repeatedly blocked by a judge. But perhaps once the manifest benefits of a car-free urban core can be widely seen, attitudes will start slowly shifting. Cars simply do not belong downtown.’

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, Immigration and Population Growth click through.