By Paul Homewood
The speed limit on motorways should be reduced to 64mph. Restrictions could be imposed on going from one part of your city to another. Short-haul flights might be banned, and rings of cameras built around every major town to levy charges on anyone moving in and out. Almost every day brings calls for some kind of curb on travel. And yet, underneath them all is one simple force: a movement by green extremists to take us back to the dark ages. It is effectively a plot to reinvent feudalism, a time when people rarely left their own villages and were taxed if they dared do so.
That’s why, for all the temptation to ridicule the Great Unwashed, we have to take their politics seriously. It wasn’t some Extinction Rebellion activists but a Commons committee that suggested reducing the speed limit to 64mph (and what is to stop them from taking it to 60mph or 58.32mph?) In London, it is the mayor, Sadiq Khan, who is championing the expansion of the Ulez charge, which will kill road traffic into the capital. Other cities with congestion or pollution charges, like Birmingham, will likely follow suit. Leaders in Oxford and Canterbury, meanwhile, have proposed what many fear will turn out effectively to be restrictions on driving from one zone of their cities to another, unless you have a permit or are willing to pay a hefty fine.
Then there is France, which is banning short-haul flights between cities that are connected by train in under 2.5 hours – which would not be of much use here in Britain, where the rail unions are always striking. The sci-fi writers of the 1950s and 1960s imagined a world where we zipped around effortlessly in robot-driven flying vehicles by the 2030s. Instead, it looks as if we will all be forced to stay at home, venturing out of our local areas once or twice a year when we have a permit to do so, hoping the cameras don’t flash when we pass the one-mile mark.
The environment should be protected. Carbon emissions need to be brought down and air quality improved. It might even be sensible to encourage people to travel at different times to ease congestion, or to create more pedestrian zones to make urban areas more livable. But that isn’t what this is about. Instead, climate change is being used as cover to wage war on the very concept of travel.
Those wanting to restrict it forget that the economy, science, culture and health all depend on people and goods getting from one place to another. There are few forms of economic activity that don’t rely on the movement of these things. Science would make fewer breakthroughs without experts meeting at conferences. Music would be unimaginably duller without the cross-pollination of rhythms, melodies and beats between continents. Our language would be poorer, too.
It is surely not a coincidence that we began to emerge from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance and then into modernity when travellers started linking up Asia, Europe and America, carrying plants, technologies and, most of all, ideas. We risk shutting down that infinite channel of progress with foolish green virtue-signalling.
Working from home won’t save us, and nor can the internet replace real communication. The world of green extremism is closed and neo-medieval, offering about as much opportunity to people as that enjoyed by a 12th-century serf. Even the Great Unwashed couldn’t survive that.
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January 6, 2023 at 09:18AM