Overcoming mobilised violence

The scene of violence and destruction through motorised mobility is well known, but we dismiss this problem every day, knowing that we ourselves are stuck very deeply in a culture of motorised mobility.

Facing reality

figures regarding motorised mobility and its impact on justice, peace and integrity of creation.

  • In 1950 there were 70 million cars, trucks and buses worldwide. Today there are more than ten times as many (900 million). If the amount of cars, which we have in Bad Boll, would be the global standard, we would have around 4.5 billion vehicles worldwide.
  • road casualties worldwide (1998): 65 per hour, 1560 per day, 569.000 per year
  • cars and trucks, but also planes and ships are killing people indirectly through different harmful substances like ozone, benzene, nitrogen oxide .
  • motorised mobility kills animals and poisons plants; biodiversity is destroyed and getting lost
  • sealing of soil
  • ships leave a track of dirt behind – in the sea as well in the air.
  • air traffic is the means of mass transport with the worst rating under climate aspects because the CO2-emissions per passenger kilometre are relatively high – and air traffic is still increasing
  • motorised mobility consumes more than 60&percent; of the annual oil-production or 30&percent; of the total energy consumption and causes nearly 35&percent; of global CO2 emissions. The transport sector is the fastest (besides the internet) growing source of carbon emissions.
  • the transport sector represents a threat to prosperity and economic security, because of the need, to import oil. The interest to maintain this 'flow' of oil is the main reason for military interventions.
  • the use of agro fuels is also driving in a dead end street. The 'methadon' destroys the rainforest, takes farmland and dangers food security (summer 2008 a Norwegian company bought 35.000 hectare in Ghana to produce 'bio fuel').
  • motorised traffic – all means of transport - is worldwide the main polluter and is responsible for increasing emissions and its impact for climate change
  • motorised transport consumes about 40&percent; of raw materials worldwide
  • besides all that motorised mobility destroys landscape and the social network in towns and villages. It's a kind of vicious circle: when car oriented planning changes the living environment the use of individual transport increasing
  • motorised transport costs a lot and with the upcoming peak of oil more and more. Related to the average monthly income a German household spends 9.9&percent; for nutrition (with cigarettes and alcohol 13.9&percent;) and for motorised mobility around 16&percent;.

Resetting our minds

Mobility of energy creates human and natural life. There exists a right for mobility, but not for wasting resources, which are in a short supply and linked with a dangerous impact for nature and human beings. A sustainable mobility without waste, without pollution and no dissipation should be within the limits of God's Creation.

This „moblilization“ of humankind is taking its toll on present and future generations and natural life. Motorized transport – mainly represented by automobiles and airplanes – has taken over. Especially, individual motorised traffic has become worldwide a symbol of modern life in all aspects. The motto is: Such as in the western part of the world, so on earth. We shouldn’t complain about the increasing amount of cars in China, Russia or India. The western consumer class provided the example and is still interested in selling their posh cars and SUVs. Living beyond their own capacity, consuming non-renewable energies, land-take over, not caring for whom comes next, It provides an illusion more than transport. It pushes away every transport vehicle which is slower, pedestrian who walk, children who play. Every inch of a road(sealed soil), every kilometre travelled by motorized vehicles has its impact on the complex ecological system locally and worldwide. There is no balance, neither within individual countries nor worldwide. The current transport system is also an indicator of an unequal Europe as well as an unequal world.

Modern societies are responsible for their violent lifestyle, for promoting desire and greed for acceleration and high speed and the tools, which fulfil these 'needs'.

Obviously, the situation varies from country to country. But everywhere – whether in the industrialised or in the developing world – the tension between the ‘dream’ and the ‘nightmare’ of motorised transport has become a daily experience. How can equitable and environmentally sustainable patterns of mobility be achieved? The need for adequate regulation is sharply felt today. Traffic and transport planning has become a central political issue. If motorised mobility on the road and in the air is to contribute to the quality of human life, approaches must be found to guide its further development. It is more a cultural than a technical problem. Therefore it is very important to develop new patterns of behaviour. Why couldn’t churches go ahead and leave the attitude of dismay without consequences behind. Defending wealth and prosperity on the one side and maintaining the power of the big international companies (oligopolies) are the main obstacles towards peace on and with the earth.

To avoid the self destruction of our planet it is necessary to fight for global justice and solidarity for the victims of climate change.

The problem for our churches is, being a part of this system and benefiting from it. They are culturally and financially captured. It is quite interesting that the subject of motorised mobility is put under a taboo, as well by environmental groups as by churches (we discussed working on the project sustainable mobility about a mobility check for the WCC – it was out of discussion). The victims of this killing mobility system live mostly in the South, are poor, but they have nevertheless the dream, to drive safe and comfortable on the roads, liberated from the toil of walking. Therefore the main polluter has to change first, develop downsized cars, shift to public transport and design new models of an integrated traffic.

Martyn Goss, a British member of the ECEN network describes the car sickness of the western world as follows:

"These days one doesn’t need to be too observant to notice the growing effects of too much traffic in Devon. In reality, we are surely slaves to addictive driving habits. We are truly hooked and will defend ourselves to the death for our rights to drive our wasteful cars. It seems our values are shaped by our cars than our faith. Yet in our defensiveness we fail to see, or conveniently forget, the harm we do to ourselves and to the planet. Pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, road deaths and injuries, obesity and poor health, loss of land, community breakdown and road crime are but a few consequences of our obsession with the car. In our car-driven society, there are many hidden losers.

"In religious language excessive driving can be termed “sinful” because it can separate us from one another, from the Earth and from God. It can fragment the bonds of wholeness which hold us together. Instead we are pushed to compete – for fuel, for road space, for car parks, for speed. The Christian message insists that we share life together and include those who are weaker or more vulnerable. The car-dominated culture pushes us in an opposite direction, which in its extreme conclusion ends in damage, death and destruction. Our churches and Diocese are not exempt from all this. Each year we drive thousands of miles – to worship( in German Language we have still the word Kirchgang), to meetings, to Synods, etc .It’s not easy to break the pattern but there are steps we can take to treat the car as a last resort rather than a first choice."

Couldn’t mobility be a right for everybody? It should be possible, but only linked with justice, the same right to use resources. We need access to transport means for everybody, but – maybe in the not far future – cars shouldn’t be individualized, not private property. Priority for transport with the less possible use of non-renewable energy, lowest pollution, noise and land use have to become imperative for traffic planning. Current subsidies – also the hidden ones – should be taken out. Urban planning needs to improve neighbourhood and greening of the environment. Safety for all participants on the streets. Pedestrians and cyclists should reclaim the roads.

There is an urgent need for change – a radical transformation of society, corporations, and of course churches. It seems to became a kind of a cultural revolution, taking in account, how big are the consequences and how difficult is the process of achieving. We have to choose between self destruction or justice

Acting in the field of motorised mobility

A continuing process of overcoming violence and protecting creation: what should be necessary for societies and especially for churches

A new sustainable mobility culture is necessary and should be embedded in a sustainable lifestyle, using a minimum of resources and living – so far as possible - in a decentralized cycle economy. It could be shaped to a kind of 'environmental affluence'

We as the mobility working group try to make some suggestions, towards our societies and to the churches

  • Societies and churches must confront the true impact of motorised mobility on creation, including climate change. After 100 years of a car oriented infrastructure planning it is time to develop new objectives and follow new patterns of town planning (working and living closer together), of slowing down speed, of downsizing of cars, trains, ships (with sky sails) and airplanes. Above all it is necessary to save limited resources and to give time for natural regeneration, to use products and services much more efficiently. We – especially the churches - should develop a new kind of living according time and space
  • Churches should raise these questions and discuss the problem of mobilised violence and encourage their members to reflect on own mobility behaviour and to present Christians concerns in public discussion. Besides they should empower their members and others to step into a sustainable lifestyle and into a transformation of products and production towards sustainable living.
  • Churches worldwide, especially in Europe should ask their respective national governments for implementation of the internalisation of the true costs of motorised transport including aviation, particularly asking for the introduction of a kerosene tax. We need also a framework of international rules and standards, limiting energy consumption. A first step could be to ask for a generally speed limit – we guess Germany (besides Nepal)is here quite behind.
  • In the field of their own responsibilities churches should encourage, develop and promote good practice and examples of a sustainable mobility culture by reducing motorised mobility: organizing an European-wide car fasting campaign before Eastern 2009/10; promoting in church owned hospitals, old people homes, schools, training centres regional purchasing of goods, especially food to avoid long transport distances and “food miles”; no domestic flights (less than 800 kilometre) within European countries, and if a flight is necessary flight compensation should be paid (www.atmosfair.de; ).
  • shifting to environmental and social friendly transport means: community cars, car sharing, promoting bicycle use and public transport with appropriate incentives and instruments, etc. Public transport should be increased. After a process of more than hundred years of paving the way for the motorised individual mobility system (and the car industry), it is time for conversion and a change of direction. This couldn’t be realized at once. It takes time, but it needs a clear direction and a vision of the promised land.
  • reducing the number of cars and optimizing the purchase and the use of means transport: efficient driving( saves up to 30&percent;), using purchase-power to demand 'better' ( downsized and more fuel efficient) cars from the car-industry. The churches in Europe should cooperate and use their market power(in Germany 'purchase' around 120.000 new cars a year,the smaller part for their own institutions, the others are bought by church staff members); promotion of electric cars (but only in combination with renewable energy use). Up to now Church staff members will get mileage allowance, when they use their own car on duty. This system should be modified, so that the car owners are forced to buy a low energy car(or – much better – use the car sharing system). Would it be a real option to act as European churches together to influence and shape the market of cars.
  • developing a new spirituality and culture of living and moving with care within given time and space. What about stillness, to say good bye to over activism, to recognize the essentials, to develop the habits of waiting, slowing down, to enjoy being sometimes an idler. We have to become reconciled with our own death, with our finitude or mortality. One root of our unlimited greed to experience life, continents, conferences and material goods could be that we said goodbye to eternal life. The consequence of having a limited life is to try to compress time and to overcome space, in order to realize fulfilment, as much as possible.

These various activities – and much more – shaping a sustainable mobility culture should be initiated and supported by church institutions and include the different fields of church activities like worship and events in order to get familiar with a sustainable lifestyle (and to make the experience, that this a gain/advantage) and – according mobility - minimize and reduce motorised traffic.

Churches should go ahead with a new kind of alternative tourism (cycling, walking e.g. the Jakobs walk to Santiago di Compostella), support and organize the exchange of good practice and examples, including car sharing (using instead of possessing), walking to church/school, supporting local business.

Inside the churches there exist - unfortunately mostly hidden – a lot of best practice. It is time to make it public.

5. We have a dream

Trees should be placed, where today cars are parking, children should play, where today cars are racing. Than we will have small shops close, where we live. People are reclaiming the road, meet each other, sitting in front of their houses, not polluted by cars, disturbed by noise. Old men and women don’t feel lonely any more. They live in a convivial community. People enjoy their life, just for them, just for others around and far away and just for future generation. For their daily mobility they walk or use their bikes. If they need any means of transport, they use the property of the village or the town. In former times villages like Bad Boll with 5000 inhabitants had 3.100 private owned cars. Now – in the year 2020 the community owns only 310 different vehicles, which can be used with a driver or self driving. To make holidays in the vicinity became a rule. To go abroad was a time - often for one year or longer – in between training and work, like the manual workers were on the road in former times. Socially it is not accepted to fly only for a week of holiday elsewhere.

But the new sustainable mobility culture was embedded in a global and national framework of rules taxes, reduction of working time (25 hours a week) and a just distribution of work and wealth.

The churches went forward in this groundbreaking change in their own institutions. They used the change also to save money and to close the gap between talking and acting and became so much more credible. They also became one of the biggest consumer organisations and the discussion in the Sunday worship about products and production, about the product line of products and their social and environmental impact was taken for granted.

The global challenges forced the churches to think about their own sustainable future: business as usual or to walkout of the imprisonment of the capitalistic consumer society. The question is:

“Drive” to hell or “walk” to heaven”.
It is time to walk the talk.

Robert Buick, Jobst Kraus, Jutta Steigerwald, Antonella Visentin

Triuggio, 27th of September 2008