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The Automobile Moratorium


The Automobile Moratorium is a grassroots organization committed to the realization of a Car-Free Day in towns and cities across America... A day in which the streets will be open to people, bicycles and other human powered vehicles - but closed to private fossil-fueled transportation.

Our cities will be open to people, bicycles, wheelchairs, and public transit as well as other forms of environmentally sound transportation.
A DAY OF REST FOR MOTHER EARTH See and feel nature come back to our neighborhoods. Our streets will be liberated from the constant noise and air pollution from traffic and will be replaced with a sense of community.
AN EVENT TO PROMOTE AWARENESS We believe that we all must "hit the brakes" on the forces that have driven us away from honoring the sources of life that truly sustain us.
DISCOVER NEW FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION Alternative and redesigned vehicles can be present at Car-Free Day. People can obtain first hand experience in these ways of getting around, plus some old ideas with a different twist.
ALMOST ANYONE CAN DO IT! The nature of your participation in Car-Free Day can range from doing nothing at all to involvement with block parties and festivities that will vary from street to street.
COORDINATION WITH CITY AGENCIES Work closely with city staff including the City Council as well as the police and fire departments to create a plan that is safe and workable.
DOCUMENT OF MOBILITY Working closely with local citizens, an Automobile Moratorium can develop a detailed plan for street closures and assisting people with specific needs. The plan can be made available to the community to review and comment upon.
ESSENTIAL AND EMERGENCY VEHICLES Provisions for emergency and essential vehicles must also be in effect so as not to create any problems for people in need of such services.
MASS TRANSIT The Automobile Moratorium supports the renewed interest in mass transit. Car-Free Day can certainly include the use of public transportation with some lines possibly free of charge or available at greatly reduced fares.
We are not trying to do away with all cars. Nor are we suggesting that those of us who own or drive them are ecologically criminal. We are attempting to bring a sense of urgency and perspective to our transportation problems. The Moratorium will create an environment wherein people can experiment and participate with a sense of renewal rather than continuing to resign ourselves to the relentless assault on the physical and psychological equilibrium of our communities, The future of our country (indeed the world) will be determined by what actions we take NOW.
The Automobile Moratorium has received enthusiastic endorsements from hundreds of individuals in the metropolitan area, many environmental organizations including Greenpeace, Earth Island Institute, Citizens for A Better Environment, The Sierra Club, and Auto-Free Bay Area, as well as the Berkeley, California Chief of Police.
The Automobile Moratorium is looking forward to the first Car-Free Days in conjunction with the annual Earth Day celebration in Spring of the year 2007!

The Automobile Moratorium envisions Car-Free Days throughout the country and around the world. The rejuvenation of our environment is a unifying theme that people of all classes and colors can come together in working toward. It will be a time to come out of our "2-ton shells," meet our neighbors, display our interest and "take back the streets" in an annual grassroots call for social, spiritual, as well as environmental sanity.




P.O. Box 9409 / Berkeley, Ca., 94709




I am always amazed to read or hear discussions of the environmental crisis these days. It is as if we ordinary people believe we don’t have the power to make simple choices, and that industry, the government, the media, and perhaps, God himself, has predetermined our complicity in ransacking the earth of its remaining natural integrity. Recently, I listened to just such a discussion on a local community radio show with Kate Simmons, a member of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming and Energy Team, reflecting the general dismay at George Bush’s abandonment of the Kyoto Protocols, which would demand a serious reduction in greenhouse gases by its greatest contributors…i.e., us, the American people.

Nowhere in this discussion, or in the phone calls that followed, however, was there a suggestion or implication that our participation, as consumers, is as much a part of the problem as Bush’s self-serving offerings to his cronies in the oil business. The repeated intimations that we are simply victims of this industrial conspiracy is beginning to grow old, particularly when one observes the daily caravans of vehicular monstrosities parading down our major thoroughfares, right past the offices of the newspapers and alternative broadcasting facilities that express such ongoing concern for our ecological stability.

One would think that if ecological concerns are not enough to put an end to this narcissistic indulgence in flaunting one’s self-destructive importance then the imminent oil crash and its consequences just might convince the owners of these degenerate private transports that they are taking us all down the road to mayhem, sooner, rather than later. According to Bruce Thompson, writing for the “Auto-Free Times,” we can expect “massive disruptions to transportation and the economy” in less than ten years due to the peaking of petroleum production around 2009. In other words, if you think the current spike in energy costs is something to write home about then just wait until the market digests and responds to the fact that there will be less and less of it to go around! It’s like the old cartoons of the rabbit running over the edge of the cliff. It keeps going in defiance of gravity until it realizes that there is, in fact, nothing holding it up, at which point the dumb bunny takes a bee-line…down… as it splatters to the ground.

Of course we don’t have the option of picking ourselves up like the rabbit invariably does and going on with business as usual. The only thing we can do is start preparing for this certainty. We’re not talking about some questionable apocalyptic breakdown in communications like the Y2k fiasco. We’re talking about a finite resource and the causal impacts of its inevitable depletion.

But who would even suggest such a crisis exists in the midst of these empires on wheels. And even when we dare do, where is the outrage?, the anemic nature of which ( if it exists at all) is particularly curious in places like Berkeley, California or anywhere where the environmental movement has strong organizational roots and traditional enclaves for dissent. Yet on any given morning you can spot one colossus after another, charging (often with just a single occupant) down to the local coffee shop for the morning fix.

Herein, perhaps, lies the problem. The genesis of the new environmental awareness was, to a large extent, concomitant with the “free speech movement,” and the general eruption of  consciousness that defined the counterculture of the 1960’s. Within the psycho-political dynamic of that culture was the supposition that most, if not all, of our social-political and environmental problems were caused by a congregate of nefarious, macrocosmic forces that we, as innocent victims of those forces, had nothing to do with…. in other words  The Establishment,” as it was unaffectionately referred to back in those days.

This may have been appropriate in 1967, when an embryonic understanding of these realities was just developing. But a generation or two later, the insistence that all our problems are caused and must be solved solely by the industrial-corporate megapoly has a resounding semblance to a child wringing the same old rag, and refusing to grow up. It is almost as if many of us have taken a callous, alarmingly cynical mandate from the failure of  the ‘establishment’ to meet our demands, and have decided to ride high on the hog (in our SUV’s, perhaps?), until some crisis forces us to be good little citizens and start to obey our own best interests.

Frankly, it is bewildering, if not outright discouraging, that modern activists cannot take the bull by the horns, and develop a program wherein people are enjoined to become significantly more pro-active in solving some of the problems that we have clearly (and all too often, proudly) contributed to. Organizing city-wide Automobile Moratoriums on a regular basis is an example of what we can do to back-up our supposed concern for Mother Nature. It would seem the least demanding of actions, as it would require nothing of anyone except that we abstain from driving on that designated day. Considering the sacrifice many have made in the name of democracy, one would think this a relatively painless way of paying homage to the good earth that sustains us and recognizing our participation in its ruin. It would seem simple, yet apathy runs deep in contemporary American political culture. Over fifty-percent of voters couldn’t even get off their complacent keisters in the November 2000 to vote in a critical election with a gamut of choices.

Righteously, hysterically and efficiently, activists have been able to rid many of our environs of the evils of tobacco and second-hand smoke. Yet there seems to be little energy spent contesting the far more invasive and destructive poisons that spew relentlessly from the tailpipes of our beloved automobiles, particularly the alarmingly popular “Sports Utility Vehicle.” With overwhelming evidence showing up daily, indicating an imminent global catastrophe, the rush to lay down $30,000-60,000 for a vehicle averaging just over 10 miles per gallon should be a source of great concern (if not abject condemnation) for all who value a natural, self-sustaining world. If the truth be told, it is not George Bush or the CEO’s of  Chevron who are behind most of these wheels of fortune…or misfortune, as the case may ultimately be, but our own paralysis as “concerned citizens” to do anything about it.

As things stand, the stampede to own and brandish the ever more polluting and rapacious means of private transportation, SUV’s in particular, should be understood as completely unacceptable and a primary target of any movement to bring back environmental sanity to our streets. A tangible social resistance to their arrogant, pernicious presence must be the first item on our progressive, collective hit-list. General  Automobile Moratoriums, regular community-city-wide days when driving is prohibited, certainly could be next on the agenda.

During World War II there were virtual moratoriums on almost every consumer activity (by way of rationing). Today there is a different kind of war going on with a more complex enemy. Certainly the corporate-industrial superstructure has been extremely sluggish in responding to anything beyond their quarterly perspectives and profits. But equally lethargic is our response to our own reckless indulgence and ostensible compliance with the ongoing corporate challenge to ecological sobriety.

There are many violations and criminal acts being committed against our environment and our own best interests that must be addressed and met with vigorous social and political energy. No one expects to bring down the “old guard” overnight. But for now, except in very special circumstances, there is absolutely no justification, on any basis whatsoever, for continuing to tolerate these behemoth, four-wheeled, overbloated testaments to our status-driven pathology, that barrel down the already constricted arteries of our lives in blatant defiance of the most modest of ecological sensibilities. As long as we non-chalantly endorse a ‘business as usual’ mentality while these beasts of burden roll merrily along, we can only lament our own contribution to pummeling this aching earth.




The Automobile Moratorium will be a time for our widely diverse communities of activists, visionaries, humanists, spiritual seekers, meditators and just plain ordinary folk to join together in making a unified statement, one that has emerged, out of necessity, from our growing awareness of and love for the sacred. It will be a time, as automobile activity grinds to a halt, that we can literally manifest the practice of stillness, the practice of stopping action to go back to ourselves. Georges I. Gurdjieff, the extraordinary spiritual teacher who believed that humanity was asleep, brought the sacred teachings of the East to the West in the beginning of this century, and used the Stop! exercise in his inner work groups to shock his students into becoming more awake. As we approach the end of the century and what many of us can see is a critical point in the history of humanity, it becomes encumbent upon us to sound the Wake Up! call in a way that will reverberate throughout our community and beyond it.

Just as we return to a background of stillness in meditation, the Automobile Moratorium can create this background for our community. This will be a day during which we who love what is most precious in ourselves and on this earth can emerge as a truly strong, wise, and cohesive presence. Groups of us may sit in meditation, chant, or dance; others may exchange information, or simply meet their neighbors. The possibilities are endless, and remain to be created by those who can envision them. Above all, there will be a visibility around the transformation of consciousness that must begin in order for our species to survive, and it will be a visibility that has been brought down to the grassroots level where it can begin to germinate in the very heart of our communities.
- Sasha Gottfried

July 15, 1991

The need to free ourselves from our auto-dependent, auto-addictive, environmentally destructive forms of transportation and move toward safe, clean and healthy forms of mass transit can be no more apparent than it is now.

As the environmental damage from the world's massive fleet of automobiles mounts - increased global warming, acid rain, urban smog, and ozone destruction - so too does the need for a grassroots response to this environmental crisis. It is the need for a forceful grassroots response to this, and other social and environmental ills, which has been at the heart of Greenpeace's work for over twenty years

Greenpeace believes that in order for those changes which are needed to rectify our current environmental crisis to take place, people must take action. We all must take action. We must act collectively to educate ourselves, organize ourselves and empower ourselves to demand that those changes which we know are needed now, do indeed occur now.

It is through grassroots actions, education and organizing, aimed at ending our "arranged marriage" to the automobile, liberating ourselves from corporate-led auto-dependence and reclaiming our right to environmentally sound, safe and sane forms of mass transit that we will one day. succeed in creating clean, healthy and sustainable transport systems in an environment in which we all can live.

It is to this end that Greenpeace gladly supports the Automobile Moratorium ... It is our hope that by helping to create a day in which the local community and the public at large can experience a reprieve from the ills of the automobile and share in the joys of mass transit and streets free for children to play in without harm, that it will foster both a sense of responsibility in those who participate to take further action and help build an educational foundation upon which future generations will be inspired to act.

In sincere support of the Automobile Moratorium ... ,
Regional Atmosphere and Energy campaigner, Greenpeace U.S.A.

For more information about the Automobile Moratorium contact Marc Twang at P.O. Box 9409, Berkeley, Ca., 94709/ 1-510-967-4722 or send e-mail.

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