On Moon Bases, Free Parking and One Hell of a Grim Swedish Science Fiction Movie

My post Monday linking to the Streetsblog video on Amsterdam’s re-purposing 10,000 parking spaces seems to have touched a nerve and sparked a heated discussion. Collect a random assortment of Americans together and I actually think we could have easier conversations about politics and religion than about parking. But we need to start talking about parking and the hold automobile culture has taken on our lives, health and wallets. Many of us would like to bike more but are afraid to because of the dangerous car-centric way in which our streets are constructed. And why take the bus when it’s so easy to find a free parking space?

To the partisans of the unalienable right to free parking I ask that you consider the video above for a quick overview of the subject featuring the godfather of parking scholarship, Donald Shoup. To summarize the video, the absurdities of parking regulation play a partial role in the homelessness and housing affordability crisis in many big cities. We’d do well to consider alternatives to the parking craters that deface our cities and make it less likely that we’ll walk, bike or take public transit.

Now on to the tangentially related subject of moon bases. My primary objection to manned space travel in general is that it gives a false sense that there is something else in this universe for us other than the paradisaical planet we currently call home and that we can screw things up here and escape to space stations, mars or other solar systems. While space offers lots of free parking potential, the simple fact is that life outside earth is inhospitable in the extreme and the distances involved in reaching other solar systems make that travel impossible.

I can think of no better warning of the vastness and horror of space than a recent Swedish movie Aniara, based on an epic poem, which you can watch via Amazon. Let me warn you that this film, despite the lack of gore, is definitely not for kids or for a cozy date night. While I’m not a fan of the film’s nihilism and dismissal of the numinous it does an excellent job of parodying the political impasse we’re currently living in (the spaceship in the film is nothing more than a bland shopping mall lead by leaders who everyone knows are lying). To my point, Aniara portrays space for what it is: an endless, empty realm of eternal darkness. The lesson of the film is don’t screw things up on earth–it’s all we’ve got.

Colonizing space is delusional, but working on making our cities more livable is eminently achievable.

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