Small Cars: New Paradigm Shift? Our country has long had an obsession with the automobile. The designs of the sixties and seventies remain fond memories that still dominate our garages and car shows today. Nobody can be anybody without owning a car in today’s culture. It is a status symbol. Our society equates bigger with better. The bigger and more expensive the car you own, the higher your status must be.
Everywhere you go there are Escalades and Navigators. They are America, writ large and thirsty, 14-miles-per-gallon gas-guzzlers driven alike by cool dudes with sunglasses and suburban moms with mocha javas and screaming kids.Now, with the price of gas going through the roof, and with every expectation, given the global hunger for oil, that it will go even higher, consumers are responding by going smaller and smaller. With the oil tycoons enjoying ever higher per barrel revenues, consumers, the very same ones who are now tightening the belt on all spending, are walking past the trucks and SUVs that have for so long been profit staples of automakers (Prosser). This is the makings of a shift in America, the shift from large, gas-guzzling SUV’s (the current paradigm) to small, fuel-efficient compact cars (the new paradigm).This is not an anomaly, but a major shift in both perception and behavior, a paradigm shift. The immense distances between major North American cities, gave rise to the substantial system of highways currently crisscrossing the continent from San Diego to New York.
Over the p of eighty years, this widespread and complicated road network served as the foundation for a flourishing society. Whether expanding in really hot areas or shrinking in the freezing cold, expressways provided reliable access and transport.Gasoline was plentiful and driving was less a chore and more of a pleasant event, and smog was only a vague thought in the back of your mind. Driving became a pleasant family outing and lengthy commutes became an acceptable standard. With the blazing arrival of the 21st century, driving has not only become a costly occurrence, it has become a taxing one. Gas-guzzling SUV’s has been a set standard for years, but now we are experiencing guilt before even pulling out of the driveway. We have become certain of the toll our pollution has taken on our environment.
Our environment, not someone else’s. For the greater part of the public, the significantly rapid ascent in the price of gas at the pump has been felt from week to week and month to month. The dollars are departing our country for foreign lands, piling up into palaces and monstrous skyscrapers that put the empire state building to shame. Our government is going more and more into debt every day. Worries are further stirred up by line-ups of family, friends, and neighbors succumbing to foreclosure on their homes, millions of them.This is a new reality. When you blend in the barrage of news about a crippling war in Iraq going down the drain, our collective views are getting dragged across a great divide.
Much of the energy used in America is related to transportation. As our present energy resources continue to dwindle and become more pricey, our views continue to shift. The way we work and travel have begun to change. This change has been discussed thoroughly throughout our country and the world.Much research has been done and many plans have been thought up to deal with this shift in our perceptions. Unfortunately, commerce and our present day culture have led us away from increased efficiency and flung us in the opposite direction: booming housing developments, ever expanding and widening expressways, and the high popularity of stylish individual transportation (cars, trucks, etc. ) have created astonishing and immense urban and suburban sprawl, and infrastructure specially built to handle the heavy traffic.
These new developments have created a problem that discourages more efficient alternatives. Most big towns have at least one, if not more, highways and busy streets in them. These streets don’t usually have back paths or bridges built into them which make it supremely difficult for people who want or need to ride a bike to work or anywhere. If there are bike paths they usually take you round-about ways that put on extra miles and defeat the purpose of riding your bike in the first place.In large cities, public transportation is available, but not always worth the hassle. Most people have to drive to get to public transportation or if they take the bus, the bus ride would be unbearably long because so many people nowadays work far from their homes. These problems cause people to be stuck with the need for expensive and inefficient transportation(Prosser).
Along with the shift to smaller cars, one of the ways to solve these problems or at least to improve them would be to create a sustainable economy.A sustainable economy is something we would have to work for because of its sensitivity to environmental constraints, along with social and economic constraints. We would need to have more efficient and environmentally friendly transportation, which cannot be achieved unless we change the way we think about transportation and also improve the design of vehicles and management of traffic to be more efficient. We need to evaluate and shift the way we identify and solve transport problems. We need to change the way our culture behaves as consumers and citizens.The bad news is that there are many barriers to these changes. For all its faults, our current transportation system provides a high degree of mobility to most users, particularly for the classes of people who are most influential in public decision making (Littman).
Many industries benefit directly from our transportation system’s inefficiencies. Most North Americans have had little experience with healthy communities that are not highly automobile dependent. As a result, there is resistance to change (Littman).The good news is that with our economy today and the high gas prices, the benefits of driving more are decreasing rapidly. Most people do not want to spend two or three hours in their cars. They do not want to drive long distances and they do not want to devote more time and effort into transportation, streets, and parking. Expanding highways to increase capacity is becoming extremely costly.
The automobile, our most expensive commodity that has long been coveted, with a meshing of design and function, has lost any of the dreamy qualities that it once might have projected.We are now seeking functionality. We want smaller, compact cars that are more fuel-efficient. The big gas-guzzling automotives are gone, or are on their way out, and the compact, smaller cars, the gas-friendly priuses and hybrids, are on their way in. This is more than a trend. It is a well-established alteration of our perceptions and behaviors that will impact automakers and the oil companies for a long time to come, and positively kindle new growing industries in the process.To drive around and see all the unsold SUV’s sitting around in car lots, is to feel like you’ve entered a time bubble, a glimpse into past times that won’t surface again, or at least not in the same way.
The SUV is about to be confined to the past, a nostalgic reminder of times gone by. North America is progressing through a paradigm shift, tiptoeing around pitfalls. Our culture and industries should reinvent themselves, use their imaginations, and adjust to our new paradigm.WORKS CITED Litman, Todd. “Reinventing Transportation. ” Prosser, Tim. “Transportation Energy Use – Is a Paradigm Shift Occurring? ”
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