Driving – and wondering what “drives” us

We spent the Valentine’s day, whatever its meaning or non-meaning to each person, in the lovely company of old and new friends in Amsterdam city. A long full day of doing and “stepping out”..! With Chris a dear friend since the first day of studies in the Netherlands we somehow made each other enthusiastic about the prospect of playing some songs together here in the city.. I left for this little tour of this time aspiring to visit some people and play a bit of music, and how amazing it is to play with someone a bit as I really would love to do that more. So we practiced for an evening and an afternoon and gave our best near the Leidseplein of Amsterdam.. 🙂 Gained some happy listeners, puzzled looks and a few euros to pay for the evening’s tram – but most of all, wonderful moments of daring, pushing some limits, and making reality something that both have long wished to do..! This felt great.. this playing and singing for me personally is opening up, and a peculiar but lovely process altogether.

Another Finnish friend Anni was there too, and these moments together are like being with this one family again, so it is all welcomed with ample wonder and gratitude.

On the way I met another friend in Berlin, from the time of being an exchange student in Australia..! That our ways cross again for a short moment also feels very precious!

One of the rides I got on the way from Berlin to Luxembourg was with a man who works in a German environmental company facilitating workshops with school children about climate change. Sitting in a traffic jam near Cologne he told me about his work and about how he actually travels tens of thousands of kilometres a year to travel to schools to speak about climate change and the effects of private commuting and other presented reasons for greenhouse gas emissions and resulting change in climatic conditions worldwide. We went on to talk about driving, and all these cars.. all these trucks on those busy broad central European highways taking goods from place to another.. Norwegian salmon to be sliced and spiced in southern Europe only to be taken back to Norway again; all the people alone in their cars, on common routes for work perhaps. Wondering these things, question marks filling our mind and sight, we wondered if anything has changed or is changing. With another ride in Finland we also wondered about it and his conclusion was of a rather pessimistic sort. This friendly German also was of the general opinion that things have actually not changed at all.

Sitting there in the traffic jam it should be quite easy to come to have that very point of view.

I was just very interested in this actually, speaking of change, and trends.. on a larger level perhaps. On the so called societal level. Are people behaving any differently now than 10 or 20 years ago? Not that we always wouldn’t, as we always keep changing.. but then in our actions and such, can changes be seen? If so, what sort of change is it.. and what actually made the change happen..? Sitting a lot in cars during this trip, I wanted to dig just a tiny bit into the trends of private, public and shared commuting in the past times. Just as one thing in the web of life that may reflect the state of human beings overall and perhaps be an indicator of the “inner, profound changes” that might be taking place.

So, just as a quick glance: it does seem there are quite a bit of research done in the past years or so reflecting on the trends of car commuting that show that some slowing down has actually been taking place. For example, Journal of Transport Geography from 2012, about driving trends in Germany suggests that young adults don’t rely as strongly on cars for their transport as they used to, and male drivers on average drive less than before:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966692312001317

Or another article on the Economist imply that recession of the 2000’s has certainly influenced partly the trends in means of travel but it doesn’t count for all of the stagnation that has been seen; the study compiled for the Australian Government in 2012 suggests that “ 20 countries in the rich world show a “saturating trend” to vehicle-kilometres travelled”:

http://www.economist.com/node/21563280

They also refer to the trend of internet influencing car use of young adults especially: “A global survey of teen attitudes by TNS, a consultancy, found that young people increasingly view cars as appliances not aspirations, and say that social media give them the access to their world that would once have been associated with cars”. And, speaking still of Germany now that it was where the conversation started, the guys who wrote this article on the Economist equally provide some notion of research that showed that the share of young German households without cars increased from year 1998 to 2008.

The research surely covers vast areas.. as ever, things influence and are dependent on each other in complicated ways and so, to speak of “certain trends” across age groups, countries and cultures is a fascinating and surely rather complex swamp that I wonder if anyone ever can really hope to make real sense of.. here I chat about these things, scraping from the top just to open it up for thoughts to take flight and maybe wander to places they haven’t been before. To consider this one thing that is part of our lives, transportation, though transportation is not separate and can’t really be separately considered from all other aspects of our lives, lest the consideration would seem rather “useless” to me so to say.

One meta-analysis on the transportation trends (over 8 industrialised countries) gives careful suggestions that the trends in transportation that were “on the increase” until roughly early 2000s may have been halting or starting to halt in the more recent years.. preview the story here:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01441647.2010.518291#.VN8NYPmsUUQ

Some research suggests a slow-down in the very recent years of CO2 emissions world-wide.. just for a little example:

http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/news_docs/pbl-2013-trends-in-global-co2-emissions-2013-report-1148.pdf

But oh, to be pessimistic, if one wants to turn that way, some researchers suggest (example here below) that the increase in air travel will just offset other efforts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions!

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/08/air-traffic-growth-emission-reductions

And so surely the list could go on and on, to ponder on the efficiencies of measures, actions, ways of being.. Just going from place to place, in a car, with all the other cars around, there is so little room for efficiently believing that any “great shift or change” might be taking place. And there you go, thinking on it while sitting in a car, going from one place to another.. Then again, things of many sorts change slowly.. whether we are consciously part of the change or not, things do change.

Sometimes very, very slowly, sometimes fast! On the steering wheel of this friendly German driver I got a ride with, was lying a bright orange cute little looming-band-hand-made octopus. This was not the first time that looming bands became the reminder to me of the strangeness of today’s world in that information and ideas can reach anyplace in the world very, very fast.. If you have not heard of looming bands:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Loom

Now, kids (and adults) make things of looming bands everywhere.. I was introduced to them in a South African pre-school, my old neighbourhood kids made them in Finland, and clearly the German children are no exception! I would be certain that you can find looming bands in the farthest corners of the Earth!

Could lead one to think about why and how things, information, ideas spread? A looming band frenzy goes around the world.. and catches the interest of many. What things actually spread in this manner? Information, ideas, can reach almost any place on Earth instantly. Things that are of interest.. of importance.. news, thoughts, lifestyles, advice.. messages, material, people.

Without going too far into it.. how do we convey and take in messages for processing and maybe using in our lives? So selective are our brains. So much information there is available.. sometimes to become of use to us, sometimes not so much. We could easily be swamped in it if so allow to be. While one might quite often think that what takes place in front of us right here, right now, is the only “information” that you ever need, the world also seems to work through coming up with new combinations, new-like things that surely are made of something that was before but just come together in new ways.. and so, new information and consequent actions also emerge and are of great value (maybe equally great as anything else).

What then is enough to become a topic of discussion, a thing to consider, take on, start practicing? Our great human brain has led us to not “only react” to things, but consider and ponder on decisions.. again, what a wonder, curse and blessing it maybe is.

“Different things are converging which suggest that we are witnessing a long-term cultural shift,” said Mimi Sheller, a sociology professor at Drexel University and director of its Mobilities Research and Policy Center. She cites various factors: the Internet makes telecommuting possible and allows people to feel more connected without driving to meet friends. The renewal of center cities has made the suburbs less appealing and has drawn empty nesters back in. Likewise the rise in cellphones and car-pooling apps has facilitated more flexible commuting arrangements, including the evolution of shared van services for getting to work. (http://www.drexel.edu/mobilities/news/archive/the-end-of-car-culture/)

Just a tiny bit of research on the drivers of driving (and other) behaviour, referring to the deeper cultural and social changes that maybe are taking place.

We are so many.. all sorts of persons and beings. No wonder that finding common ground is difficult sometimes. That there are clashes, differing opinions and behaviours. Still.. if I were to just think what I’ve heard, and seen happening around within groups of people I know or have met, in minds young and old, in the places I’ve been.. I’d actually come out with thinking there are some major changes taking place indeed. On many levels.. Is this because I’m rather resonating with things that reflect these “major changes”, that’s why I see what “I want to see”.. or is there truly some changes happening? Changes that I guess reflect the deep understanding of our connectedness, or the simple need to care in order to be cared for, give in exchange for receiving.. with consideration.

I wonder! And believe that we are learning, in any case, whatever else takes place. What would you think? I find it fascinating to discuss these with people, as we tend to discuss and ponder, come up with conclusions and solutions, only to find more questions and ways to answer them again.. 😉

I include here some images from on the road and also from Luxembourg with Anni. That place has a great deal of history in it, in the very robust form of ancient fortresses and stories.. old and new, mystic spiritual and materialistic all mingled in one, it somehow felt like its own little bubble of sorts. It was a wonderful place to feel inspired, play a little, smile and receive smiles back with strangers and a dear old friend alike. Why not, happy to have been a visitor to this place for sure.

The "Grund" of LuxembourgMy friend Anni's place in LuxembourgAnd the beautiful lady herselfThrough the Ardennen, in a Polish truckEarly morning in Amsterdam

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