The other afternoon I was passing a village primary school at the end of the school day – going home time. This one happened to be in South Oxfordshire but I’m sure it’s not unique.
As I rode by there were just a handful of children walking home with one or more parents; none walking alone. Most were being picked up by mothers in Chelsea tractors – large pseudo-off-road vehicles. They are gas-guzzlers – we all know that – so they’re doing nothing for the future. They’re too wide for the lanes they’re being driven down, so they’re at best annoying and at worst dangerous for any fellow road users. The height of the front bumpers on these things makes them particularly dangerous if they hit a pedestrian – they’re more likely to kill than a normal car. Typically, children are the victims in pedestrian-vehicle collisions.
The typical refrain of the drivers of these things is “But I feel safer in it”. That they’re making the world more dangerous, including for their children’s contemporaries, doesn’t cross their mind. That they’re helping to make life in the world less sustainable, less hospitable, for their children in coming years presumably doesn’t occur to them either.
And the banal but no less real thought occurs that that’s the rub: we are all too easily only able to see the very small picture. Our world is one where it’s all about how the individual feels and acts.
Sooner or later the outside world will encroach on the individual. A Chelsea tractor driven by a safe-feeling mother will kill another mother’s kid, but that will be easily understood and palmed off as a one-off, an accident, even though, like most accidents, it could have been avoided if someone had cared enough. And sooner or later the whole world will encroach on the individual when the consequences of climate change start to really bite, but by then it will be too late even if that does prompt any realisation on the part of the individual about their position in society, in the wider scheme of things. Hey ho.