August 30, 2017

Motor Vehicles - Ecocidal Agents of Destruction

Road kill. We say it without really thinking about it. Trillions of deaths annually are seen as unavoidable collateral damage, simply so we can go places faster and more conveniently.

I have been around cars for my entire life. During that time I have often thought about all the wildlife killed by cars every year.  The windshield alone is a speeding zone of death, evidenced by the ample bug stuff splattered everywhere after a road trip. What a way to go.

Like most North Americans, I have a motor vehicle (a wheelchair accessible van). Unlike most, for the past few years it has been driven an average of about 1600 km (1000 miles). When I drive to the grocers, which is about the only time I drive lately, I am usually not driving fast enough to kill any bugs.

Going slow means there is lots of time to stop or manoeuvre around anything on the road, although ants are impossible to see from the driver's seat. Now I mostly kill things with the noxious fumes emanating from my tailpipe. That doesn't make me feel any better.

The forecast is for more cars in the future. Lots more. Perhaps up to a billion more, and enough new roads for all of them, that would circle the Earth 600 times. These vehicular ecocidal agents of destruction will have serious repercussions for wildlife globally.

“A recent paper by Canadian scientists suggests the upsurge in traffic could itself be responsible for the fall in insect numbers. After extrapolating data from a mile of highway in Ontario, researcher from Laurentian University calculated that hundreds of billions of pollinating insects were probably being killed by vehicles each year in North America.” - Source 

What would our transportation look like if we had reverence, compassion and care for all the other life that shares the planet with us? We can move toward this by staying closer to home, avoiding unnecessary trips, and when traveling, choosing less deadly forms of getting about, like cycling, walking, bus and train.

You can read more about the "highway holocaust" here. It might make you feel like leaving your car in the garage or driveway more often. We can help to radically reduce road kill.


  1. I no longer own or drive a car, but I do have someone drive me about once a week for groceries. It's almost impossible to get around it, unless you live in a bigger city with mass transit. Or maybe we could live like my Amish neighbors and go back to horse and buggy?

    1. Marla,

      A horse and buggy wouldn't kill anything due to speed, and along the way, the horse would leave some food for insects. The Amish must have a speed limit - I have never seen one of their rigs go fast. I like that. Nice and slow is the way to go.

      We certainly have created a car-dependent culture. Our home is not serviced by public transport, and I can only carry so many groceries on my bicycle. It would be hard to get Linda around without our van. I guess neighbours could plan trips together, or a horse and cart could come around selling goods, and I could pull Linda in a rickshaw.

      Linda remembers living with her grandmother in Nova Scotia in the mid-70s. Her rural neighbourhood was serviced by a milk truck, meat seller, fish seller, and a peddler of pretty much everything else you might want. Linda's first pair of Levis jeans was bought off a truck in her grandma's front yard.

      Nova Scotia, at one time, was also serviced by bookmobiles. And trains. We have thrown out a lot of good things. The problem now is individual cars. They aren't really great for the planet even if they are electric, and are driven less.


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