Back to the 1800s

For those who do not accept my interpretation that the IPCC wants America to solve global warming by reverting our economy to look just like India’s, check out this article from Reuters (ht: Reference Frame)

French towns worried about fuel prices, pollution and striking transport workers need look no further than the horse.

Horses are a possible alternative for vehicles such as school buses and refuse trucks, say groups eager to pick up on global concerns about eco-friendly transport.

"It’s all about sustainable development and bringing some humanity back to today’s monotonous, machine-driven jobs," Stephane de Veyrac, from the French National Stud Organisation, said at this week’s annual conference of French mayors.

De Veyrac’s group says it is the first in France to offer consulting on a wide range of horse-powered vehicles that could also haul bottles and aid street sweeping.

"It is a serious alternative — horses are already in use in over 70 towns as replacements for gasoline- and diesel-powered service vehicles," said de Veyrac, pointing to the ‘Hippoville’ prototype parked in the exhibition hall….

Studies about cost and overall carbon footprint are still underway but supporters say the animals beat cars and trucks on a number of criteria, especially for transport work requiring frequent stops over short distances, like emptying trash bins.

Here is a related thought from the Anti-Planner (empahsis added):

Many planning advocates take it for granted that sprawl and auto driving are inherently unsustainable. McShane shows just how this attitude can go when he describes Halle Neustadt, which some Swedish urban planners once described as “the most sustainable city in the world.”

McShane here refers to some field work done by the Antiplanner. To make a long story short, what made Halle Neustadt “sustainable” was poverty, and as soon its residents gained some wealth, many of them moved out and most of the rest bought automobiles, turning the cities many greenspaces into parking lots.

And, oh by the way, the urban planning ideas don’t even work:

Owen then turns to climate change, which he describes as the last gasp of smart growth. Smart growth, he notes, “has always been a policy in search of a justification, a solution in search of a problem.” Now, in climate change, smart-growth advocates hope they have found such a problem.

One difficulty, McShane notes, is that there is no guarantee that smart growth is really more greenhouse-friendly than ordinary sprawl. Depending on load factors, Diesel trains can emit more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than autos, and concrete-and-steel high-rise condos can emit more CO2 than wood homes.

  • markm

    And a few million horses in a city would create an emissions problem beyond imagining…except it wouldn’t actually happen that way. It just isn’t practical to haul the immense amounts of horse feed required to provide a horse for every urban family, so the cost of keeping horses winds up beyond the means of most people. An urban society without motorized transport is a society where most city-dwellers cannot afford any transport but their own feet (and trains, if available – but with trains, not only are you tied to the train schedule, but for most trips your feet have to cover the first and last mile.) It’s a society where, except for a privileged elite, your choices and opportunities are severely limited by geography. The city may have wonderful libraries, parks, museums, and theaters, but for anything but an all-day trip you are limited to whatever’s within walking distance or accessible without too many train changes. Similarly for job opportunities, schools, etc.

    As for rural life… Even in the 1940’s, the rural Iowa county where my father grew up had only one high school, and very few roads that remained passable to busses or other automobiles when it rained. His family lived quite too far out for riding a horse to school in the county seat to be practical, even if his father hadn’t needed the horse for farm work. So the little one or two room schools scattered every few miles attempted to teach in grades 1-8 everything a man would need (reading, writing, and arithmetic) for the business of running a farm, and most kids quit school after graduation from 8th grade. (Some quit when they reached 16 and still hadn’t completed 8th grade – social promotion didn’t exist, and so the schools could maintain higher standards than you’ll find today.) Dad was lucky; his parents had cousins who ran a restaurant in town, so he had a place to stay while going to high school, and only a few hours of work every night to pay for it… And he had the drive to use the GI bill a few years and go on to college, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the chance to go to high school first.

  • I agree that things would really have to go to hell economically before significant numbers of people would voluntarily use horses again for utilitarian transport. Even if gasoline production were to be cut by 90%, or personal cars abandoned for whatever reason, I think we would see the use of more jitney buses, many of them electric, well before we got to the point where horses looked attractive again.