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Andy Singer (Born 1965) is an American political cartoonist and environmentalist.
- My obsession with cars is based on my obsession with the environment. Food, housing and transportation are the three big human and environmental issues. That's where most of our resources go and where most of our pollution is generated...Transportation is the big elephant in the bedroom that no one wants to seriously discuss.
- Attitude, 2002
- Cars are environmental enemy number one.
- Attitude, 2002
- After I did the book CARtoons in 2001, I got invitations to speak at various venues including The Village Building Convergence, bookstores and a few universities. Being a visual artist, I gradually developed a slide talk about the social, environmental, economic and political problems of transportation design in America. I used a mixture of cartoons, photographs and maps because I found it was helpful to give people real-world examples of good and bad urban design. When I got positive feedback from the talk, I became interested in turning it into a book and an interactive website. I still have to build the interactive website but Microcosm helped me create, edit and publish the book. My goal was to explain transportation design issues and politics in a simple way to college students and the general public, as well as put forward a few ideas about why I believe we’re not making more political progress at reforming our transportation system.
- When I graduated from college, I sought out the cheapest rooms or apartments I could find. One of these put me next to a freeway interchange in Oakland California. The experience of living there, biking everywhere and reading the book The Power Broker by Robert Caro, changed my life and made me appreciate all the issues associated with transportation. I saw exactly how and why the freeway interchange gutted my neighborhood and how the main obstacle and danger to bicycling in urban areas was cars and drivers. This was the early 1990s when many people were waking up to these same issues. I participated in some of the first Critical Mass rides in San Francisco and the East Bay and started giving them my transportation cartoons for flyers and posters. I also discovered the (now defunct) “Auto-Free Times” and Alliance for a Paving Moratorium in Arcata, California and started sending them cartoons as well. By 1994 it had become a major theme in my work.
- What can ordinary people with busy lives and not a lot of political access do to address this stuff? You can try to address it in your own life. You can try to set up your life so you have to drive as little as possible. In so doing, you vote with your feet and your wallet. When more people bike, walk and use public transit, there is greater pressure on elected officials and government agencies to improve these modes of transportation. It thus increases the profitability of public transit and makes cities more desirable places to live. It also helps reduce your carbon footprint and reduces the amount of money going to automobile manufacturers, oil companies and highway agencies. In a globally connected capitalist world, cities and countries are competing for highly skilled labor—programmers, engineers, scientists, etc. To some degree, these people can live anywhere they want. So San Francisco or my current city in Minnesota aren’t just competing with other U.S. cities but are competing with cities in Europe for the best and brightest talent. Polls and statistics show that more and more skilled people want to live in cities that are walkable, bikeable and have good public transit. Also our population is aging and realizing that they don’t want to be trapped in automobile-oriented retirement communities in Florida or the southwest USA. They also want improved walkability and transit. Finally, there’s been an explosion of obesity in the USA with resulting increases in healthcare costs. Many factors contribute to this but increased amounts of driving and a lack of daily exercise are major factors. City, state and business leaders in the US are increasingly aware of all this. It is part of Gil Peñalosa’s “8-80” message (the former parks commissioner of Bogotá, Colombia) and many other leaders.
- The Power Broker by Robert Caro is the most inspirational book I've ever read on the subject of transportation and urban planning …but I lived in New York City and knew many of the places and people he was talking about. I'm not sure if it would be as inspirational to others. The book won a Pulitzer Prize when it came out in the 1970s. Caro was a newspaper reporter who wanted to write a book about political power– how it was obtained and wielded and what role agencies played in government. In describing the life of Robert Moses, a highway builder, unelected state bureaucrat and creator of the modern “highway department,” Caro was able to describe (in a microcosm) the transportation and political history of America. Another great book is Ivan Illich's “Energy and Equity.”
- What are your main inspirations when drawing? The news, nature, other people, day-to-day events, music, sounds, art, everything is potentially inspirational. All you have to do is go outside, read a newspaper or watch contemporary television or movies. The cartoons write themselves!
- For me, politics are a fundamental element of being human. They are the process by which we collectively interact with each other, resolve conflicts and try to solve larger social or environmental problems. There are family politics, neighborhood politics, local politics, national politics and international politics. Humans are political animals and I find those interactions interesting, amusing and important.
- What are your feelings from Bush to Obama? Besides being responsible for the death of half a million people, I feel like Bush dealt a huge economic and social blow to the USA, one from which we may never fully recover. He directly flushed 3 trillion dollars down the toilet on hopeless, pointlessly destructive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq …and they’re not even over! For years to come, we’ll be paying costs for all the injured veterans (over 50,000) and destabilizing three countries, because you have to look at the impact that the Afghan war has on Pakistan. Bush expanded the use of torture, and created a whole new layer of government bureaucracy (the “Department of Homeland Security”) to spy on Americans. He created Indefinite Detention (at Guantanamo and other US military bases) and expanded the use of executive-ordered assassinations using the new drone technology. On economic issues, his administration allowed corporations to run things and regulate themselves. The agency that was supposed to regulate oil drilling had lobbyist-paid prostitutes sleeping with employees while oil industry lobbyists basically ran the agency. Energy companies like Enron, and the country’s investment banks were deregulated at the end of the Clinton administration and Bush allowed them to run wild. Above all, he was incompetent and appointed some really stupid people to important positions at every level of government. Certainly, Obama has been involved in many of these same activities. A few he’s increased, such as the use of drone assassinations, but most of them he has at least tried to scale back. At the beginning of his first term, he tried to close the Guantanamo prison and have trials for many of the detainees in the United States but conservatives (including many Democrats) stirred up public resistance and blocked this from happening. He tried to get some kind of universal healthcare because over 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance. This is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcies and foreclosures because someone gets sick in a family, loses their job, loses their health insurance (because American employers are source of most people’s healthcare) and they can’t pay their health bills or their mortgage. Or they use up all their money caring for a sick family member. So many people in the US wanted health insurance reform or single-payer, universal health care similar to what you have in the UK. Members of Obama’s own party (The Democrats) joined with Republicans to narrowly block “The public option” but they managed to pass a half-assed but not-unsubstantial reform of health insurance that would prevent insurers from denying you coverage when you’re sick or have a “preexisting condition.” The minute it was signed into law, Republicans sued in the courts (all the way to the supreme court) and fought, tooth and nail to block its implementation. Same thing with gun control, even as we’re one of the most violent industrial countries in the world. (Among industrial countries, our murder rate is second only to Russia). Obama has managed to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan over Republican opposition but, literally, everything he tries to do, they blast it in the media and fight it in Congress. So, while I have a lot of criticisms of Obama, he is many orders of magnitude less awful than Bush and many of the positive things he’s tried to do have been blocked. That said, the Democratic and Republican parties agree on more things than they disagree. Both signed off on the Afghan and Iraq wars. Both signed off on deregulation of banks, of derivatives, of mortgage regulations and of the energy and telecom business …and we’ve been living with the consequences ever since. I’m guessing it’s the same thing with Labor and Conservatives in the UK. Labor or Democrats will SAY they stand for certain “progressive” things but they end up supporting the same old crap— neo-colonialism or outright imperialism in foreign policy, deregulation, privatization, etc. Blair signed off on Bush’s Iraq war …just like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and many “liberal” U.S. politicians. And only one member of congress (Barbara Lee of California) even questioned the war in Afghanistan—one congressperson out of over 500!
- Basically, in America both political parties support policies that are taking the entire planet to hell but the Democratic Party is the slow train to hell, whereas the Republicans are the fast train to hell. Because I’m in no hurry to go to hell, I tend to vote Democrat (or Green).
Why We Drive (2013)
- Many people believe that America's addiction to automobiles is a cultural problem. The thinking is, if engineers, elected officials and the public were better educated about transportation issues, they'd shift the country away from cars and towards public transit and better land use. In reality, our country's automobile addiction has more to do with politics, government agencies, and our tax structure.
- I am an advocate for car-free cities, car-free city sections and car-free living.
- Like the science fiction movie The Matrix, giving up your car unplugs you from the Matrix of American car culture. From birth, you are unconsciously lured into the car and lured into seeing the world from the viewpoint of a car windshield. Fortunately for me, my father liked bicycles and trains.
- Cars are romanticized on television, in films and in popular music. There are thousands of songs, TV shows, and movies about driving, racing, road trips, and car chases. Just because something is romanticized, however, doesn't mean it's good for you. Alcohol, guns, drugs, and cigarettes are also romanticized in popular culture. But, like cars, they can be bad for your health or even deadly.
- Space formerly devoted to human beings is now devoted to cars.
- Whenever I look at a highway or parking lot, I consider what formerly existed on the land it now occupies and what could exist.
- Not having a car makes you come up with creative solutions and enables to see and overcome the influence of car culture on your own life. When my wife and I got married, we had to figure out how to get from the ceremony to the reception and decided to ride bicycles. It was fun but it also made me appreciate how the wedding and funeral industries have managed to make automobile processions a part of our sacred rituals.
- This may seem obvious but it's important to realize all the ways our society consciously or unconsciously pressures us to travel. There are advertisements for vacations and travel destinations, pressure to work at places only accessible by car, pressure to purchase larger homes outside of town, and pressure to visit family or friends as frequently as possible. Travel is often presented as a way to make us happier, more relaxed and less lonely. In reality, all this traveling often makes us more stressed out, tired, and isolated.
- Many politicians perpetuate car-oriented transportation planning and land use, not out of malice but because they have no idea what it's like to traverse their city without a car. They often don't realize how much of a barrier a highway or big boulevard poses to pedestrians and how this might be hurting businesses or negatively impacting their city. Taking them on walking, biking, or transit tours of their city or getting them to bike or walk to work can make them see the need for transit or pedestrian improvements.
- At some point, however, you must participate in the political process. There is no substitute for making major legislative changes. Meetings are no fun, but political power goes to those who are willing to sit through meetings. Your local zoning boards, community councils, and metropolitan planning organizations can have a big impact on urban design and transportation choices. I encourage people to pay attention to these organizations and become active on transportation issues.
- I believe that creating one large car-free section of an American city would be a powerful example of what's possible. It would prove to people that it could be done and would show how eliminating cars could improve quality of life, improve the environment, and reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
- There are too many damn cars. I first recognized this in 1983, just after high school. A friend and I were unable to buy tickets for a rock concert on Long Island, New York, and had to sit outside the Nassau Coliseum for three hours, waiting for a ride home. Looking out, I saw seemingly endless parking lots surrounded by endless highways, streets and exit ramps, all of them filled with cars-thousands and thousands of cars. Amidst all this concrete, I couldn't see a single tree, a single bush or even a single blade of grass. Once I became sensitized to cars, I realized that almost everything in North America is centered around the automobile. This is true of architecture, urban planning, socializing and even the basic procurement of goods and services. We have become a society in which the simplest human gatherings, like going to hear music or see a sporting event, require thousands of motor vehicles and miles of asphalt. There are precious few places where you are not within sight or sound of a road.
- Images of cars and highways fill our literature, songs, movies and art, not just in America but worldwide. Books like "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac or "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe were among the first to romanticize driving and road trips. Old blues and early rock songs like "Route 66," "Brand New Cadillac," and "Goin' Mobile" further romanticized cars and highways for the postwar "Baby Boom" generation. Thousands of films and T.V. shows have focused on or predominantly featured cars and car chases: "Rebel Without a Cause," "American Graffiti," "Easy Rider," "Bullet," "The Dukes of Hazzard," the "James Bond" films, and at least half a dozen Burt Reynolds movies. The list goes on... All this pop culture, combined with relentless commercial advertising, has made cars an integral part of our personal identity. We have been taught to equate motor vehicles with wealth, power, romance, rebellion and freedom. Now, everywhere I go in the world, I see cars-millions and millions of cars-in Rome, Guatemala City, Kuala Lumpur, Bombay and Beijing. Everywhere there are huge traffic jams and poor air quality. The number of motor vehicles in the world is growing three times faster than the population.
- In contrast to the romantic images of advertising and pop culture, increased "automobility" has meant a loss of community, causing further distancing of social groups and alienation.
- We have created a mechanized concrete environment that is increasingly unfriendly and hazardous to human beings. As we spend more and more time trapped behind the wheels of our cars, as ever more land is bulldozed and made into strip malls and parking lots, the experts tell us our "standard of living" is increasing dramatically. But what about our quality of life?
- While many debate the quality of life issues, one thing is certain: from an environmental point of view, cars are decimating the planet.
- you can debate whether cars improve or degrade our quality of life, but there is no debating this fact: If we don't stop building new cars and roads, our environment, and we who depend on it for life, are done for.
- By living near your job or working near your home, you can save hundreds of hours of driving each year, giving yourself more free time to do other things (like draw cartoons). From having to walk or bike a little more, you stay in better shape and learn to be more efficient with your trips away from the house.
- by using public transit, you become a better advocate for it since you know more exactly how it works and how it could be improved.
- Zoning has a tremendous impact on transit.
- Major efforts should be made to make cities more livable…More city streets should be made car-free and, where possible, private cars should be banned from city centers entirely.