Monday, 21 September 2009


“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” - H.G. Wells

Today is International Car-Free Day, which has been instituted to celebrate an environment without cars. This important international sustainability initiative was launched in 2001 by the Division for Sustainable Development of the UN, in partnership with The Common’s long-standing World Car-Free Days collaborative program. The future organisation and details of this highly innovative and much appreciated collaborative effort is currently under discussion. However, many countries around the world have chosen September 22nd to be the day when this initiative is brought to the fore and many activities around big cities all over the world are making people aware of just how big a difference we can make by choosing not to use our car as much as we are able to.

Although it is important every September 22nd to make everyone aware that we do not have to rely so much on our cars in this car-dominated society that we have become, we do not want just one day of celebration and action and then a return to “normal” car-dependent life. We should take the opportunity for showing people that when people shed their cars, they should and can stay out of their cars. We and the people who govern us need to create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, users of public transport, and other people who do not drive cars. The Car-Free Day must be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars all year round. See this website for some great ideas and resources.

As climate change begins to alter our environment more and more, as the Antarctic ice begins to melt, as droughts and floods destroy our precious resources, World Car-free Day is the perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and do something to make a difference. I try and make every day a car-free day by using public transport to go to work. Today this gave me a special satisfaction because I knew that with this little contribution personally, I am making a difference, however small it is. It up to every one of us to do this, but also to demand from city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the car.

As the time for the December Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change approaches it is important to activate and ensure that our views are made crystal clear to our politicians. Australia’s first ever Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, has just revealed that the Australian Federal Government has been working on a legal structure that could appease developing nations unwilling or unable to commit to economy-wide targets to ensure that greenhouse gas emission targets are achieved. This of course is an issue that has been hotly contested between the developed and developing countries in the face of climate change strategies.

Wong proposes a differentiated approach where nations can choose how they reduce emissions instead of having a set of economy-wide targets imposed on them. The actions that countries take to fulfil their commitments will reflect different national circumstances. For example, one nation may choose to become legally bound to generate energy via renewable sources, while another may choose to attain a certain technology standard or a third may choose to abide by a target to reduce deforestation.

Car-free days give us the opportunity to “Think Globally, Act Locally”. This is now a widely held precept which purports that global environmental problems can turn into action only by considering ecological, economic, and cultural differences of our local surroundings. This phrase was originated by René Dubos as an advisor to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. In 1979, Dubos suggested that ecological consciousness should begin at home. He believed that there needed to be a creation of a World Order in which “natural and social units maintain or recapture their identity, yet interplay with each other through a rich system of communications”. In the 1980's, Dubos held to his thoughts on acting locally, and felt that issues involving the environment must be dealt with in their “unique physical, climatic, and cultural contexts.”

Happy Car-Free Day, today and every day!


  1. Driving today? Watch out for the Car-Free Enforcer.


  2. Love this quote by H. G. Wells ...

  3. I think I'm probably one of the few people in the UK who don't actually drive, so I've got used to finding my way around using public transport. More people are using public transport here to commute to work in different areas of the city - I think many find it easier ( and less stressful ) just to hop on the bus. Also there's more awareness of environmental issues, and it helps folks feel that at least they're doing something to help.

  4. I would really like to do something that's carfree but there is no public transport where I live so I depend on my car for everything. Good idea about activating and getting the politicians to look at issues like this.

  5. This is a great idea. I had not heard of it before and the links you give suggest it's a European initiative, Nicholas. Maybe I should start talking to politicians here!