- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Auto Slump is Worldwide

It is not just the US automakers that are facing the brink. Japanese automakers will also be facing similar challenges in the coming years - and no taxpayer money will (or should) save them from it.

This article from the Japan Times quotes a 39-year low for auto sales in Japan. All of a sudden people are realizing they don't need new cars, and maybe cars aren't so cool anyway after all.

This auto-slump is similar to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in many ways. For years the auto industry - in cahoots with credit card operators and others in the finance industry have contrived to convince the population that they NEED to buy the latest coolest sexiest extension of their personalities (on credit...). But just like the shiny new hovel in a deadpan suburban outpost miles and miles from the city with no public transport, people eventually realized that the dream they were sold is more of a nightmare - the financial and emotional burden of the debt combined with the un-fulfilled promise of a better life that a sterile suburban existence cannot ever provide.

Time for a little reality folks.

But the interesting thing here is that reality doesn't have to be all that painful. In fact it might actually be pleasant and preferable to our overly hedonistic existence of recent years (decades?). More emphasis on building walkable, livable communities (not "suburbs") has to be a good thing. Ride a bike, lose weight, meet and greet the neighbors on the way to school and work. Frugality can be surprisingly fulfilling.


Anonymous said...

Completely agree. Always like reading your posts. Reminds me a little of the famous circular "existence" skit in the Story of Stuff where the hapless consumer just goes round and round, working to pay off consumer goods, going home and slumping in front of the TV, only to be assailed with ads for shinier/"better"/washes-whiter goods creating desire for more consumption, needing more work .. and so it goes. Frugality can be suprisingly fulfilling indeed.

StompinRhino said...

Thanks for the comment, and glad to know others are enjoying the blog.

The Story of Stuff is beautiful - well researched and presented.

My guess with frugality is that it forces us to face up to the realities of our lives and relationships, and improve them in tangible ways rather than the quick-fix feel-good escapism of consumer goods, new homes and cars.