Why protest the Auto Show?

[sent to CCM list]

Well, why not?

The auto industry spends nearly $10,000,000,000 a year on marketing cars to
Americans. (Put aside for a moment the opportunity costs exacted by just
that sum, a small portion of the industry’s total expenditures.) At this
stage in capitalism, advertising no longer just tells you about stuff you
never knew you needed; it manufactures consumer desire for objects that
just plain aren’t needed. And when said objects, in the course of normal
– poison the air and water, belching out half of the nation’s smog and a
fourth of its greenhouse gas emissions (and, through the manufacture of
their components and fuel, are directly responsible for far more) and
collectively leaking out enough toxins to be the nation’s second largest
non-point-source source of runoff;
– kill over 42,000 Americans a year, including over 6,000 walkers and
cyclists, just in crashes (the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every 3.5
days, or a front-page terrorist attack [30 dead] every 6 hours; the annual
pedestrian and cyclist death toll alone is equivalent to the crowd which
would fill a half-acre plaza), AND kill thirty times more animals in the
U.S. than the fur industry;
– create endless traffic jams, causing endless frustration and costing the
U.S. economy $100 billion in wasted time; and
– seize, for their own purposes, half the land in our cities and towns from
humans, flora, and fauna, to the tune of nearly one million acres a year,
I think that any sane human being would indeed question exactly whether
we’re getting our money’s worth from these things.

I don’t believe that many people realistically think that horseless
carriages, regardless of their power source, are going away anytime soon.
They are, indeed, too damn convenient, and we’re a wealthy enough country
that we can afford the convenience. However, at what point in the
proliferation of the automobile do the diminishing returns result in
negative marginal utility — do the social costs begin outweighing the
private benefits? Especially in terms of congestion and land consumption,
since a growing fleet of cars is competing for a limited amount of roads
and parking, we may well have gone past the point where each new car out on
the road is a net drag on our economy, society, and environment.

Given all that, why not protest against a ruinous machine’s highest form of
spectacle, this most blatant display of capitalism cannibalizing itself?
Why not counteract that with some festivities?

The far happier responses to this question have a point, as well, but this
is merely my own thinking. I’m extrinsically motivated — minimizing social
cost and providing/taking fair shares are personally important — and I
realize that not everyone thinks the same way. Your mileage may vary.

Also, there’s a reason why the Auto Show ride is not on the last Friday of
the month. (First, because there’s no Auto Show then, but that aside….)
It’s not a Critical Mass event per se; indeed, nothing that we do outside
of assembling on the last Friday of the month — including this list! —
can actually be called “Critical Mass,” since CM is nothing more than the
happy coincidence of bicyclists converging for a periodic bike ride. The
people of Critical Mass use the energy from the ride to spark all sorts of
events. Some will interest you more than others, but none of them “are”
Critical Mass.