Smaller is better? Car size in the UK and America

While several other blog posts on this site have compared transportation in England and the States, including discussions of public transit, bicycles, and diesel engines, one topic has not yet been covered in great detail: vehicle size. Having traveled throughout the United Kingdom, including several cities in England, Scotland, and Wales, one of most immediately noticeable differences between here and home is the size of the vehicles, with cars driven in England tending to be significantly smaller (and thus more energy efficient) than their counterparts on American freeways. In the States, families tend to have large SUV or minivans, able to carry their children and an entire team of friends as well. Here, cars tend to be significantly smaller, only able to hold four or five individuals at a time. Pickup trucks, a normal vehicle on the highways of American, are nearly non-existent in the United Kingdom, in my personal experience.

 Perhaps one of the reasons for this difference in size is the importance of the car as a symbol of success in American life. As has previously been discussed in this blog, public transit enjoys a much higher, more successful profile in England and Europe than it does in the United States, where car culture continues to reign supreme. As Taras Grescoe, the author of Straphanger: Saving Our Cities And Ourselves From the Automobile, says, “Car culture is just so deeply ingrained in our spirit and philosophy in North America, for some people the idea of relying less on them just doesn’t compute” (Kives 2012). This spirit seems to include driving the largest car that you can, rather than one that is just large enough to suit your needs or is more efficient: both traits prized across the pond in England.

 Decreased vehicle size in the UK also leads to sustainability benefits in other ways too,  besides just a smaller carbon footprint. For instance, smaller cars require smaller spaces in general, for parking and driving. This space saving means that parking lots do not need as much room to house the same number of cars in Britain as they do in America, thus cutting down on the amount of land required to put them. With smaller cars, new roads and driveways can also be smaller than those found in America, again sustaining a larger amount of natural landscape. For instance, in a study looking at car sizes on freeways in Detroit, Michigan (incidentally the car capital of North America), the authors found that if all of the cars observed in the study were replaced with sub-compact size cars, at least 8% gains in available freeway space would result (Wasielewski, 1981). This 8% number is generally agreed throughout the industry, as an additional study focused on the speed of queues at traffic intersections, which can be increased through a smaller-size car fleet (Herman et al, 1974). While 8% does seem like a relatively small number, with personal transit as one of the biggest contributions to carbon footprints for most individuals, any decrease in this area, particularly in oversized American cars, is likely to make a big impact.

Works Referenced

 Herman, R., Lam, T., (1974). An experiment on car size effects in traffic. Transport and Road      Research Laboratory, 90-92.

Kives, Bartley (2012). New busway too little: author says route only starts to address city’s          transit needs. Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION. April 24th 2012

Wasielewski, Paul (1981).  The Effect of Car Size on Headways in Freely Flowing Freeway         Traffic. Transportation Science 15.4: 364-378.


The Oppression of both Animals and Women

After reading articles by Carol J Adams and Lori Gruen, I have become greatly aware of the intertwining oppression of women and animals.

I think one can begin by talking about women and make-up. First of all, society has placed a construction around this ideal of “beauty” where women must wear make-up to cover themselves in a way that makes them “more appealing”. Girls grow up in a world where they look at magazines showing advertisements for make-up to cover their “blemishes” and mascara to make their eyelashes longer and “more beautiful”. This disturbs me in so many levels that women feel this great need to conform to this view of “beauty” for the opposite sex that society poses. One shouldn’t even get started with the prices that are put on such products to make them look “more pretty”. There are many women out in the world that feel the need to put on make-up everyday because society tells them “hey, if you don’t have make up, then you aren’t pretty. Thus you don’t care about your appearance to attract and appeal to others”.

Lets look at this in an ecofeminist lens which looks at the origins of make-up. Make-up is tested on animals for example especially lipstick. Make-up is tested on all types of animals to check the “safety” which puts animals in lots of pain and after their testing they are left to die. Fortunately there are companies out there that insure human ways of testing or insure that their product was not tested on animals.


Do you really need those longer lashes to conform to societies construction of beauty? Think about the next time you put on make-up.


Animals are constantly being oppressed by ways of treatment from injections to produce more milk to chickens being kept in such a confined space that they have no room to scratch or move. Most of these animals don’t even see the sunlight and are locked in a huge warehouses. One must realize, the majority of these animals that are being oppressed are female animals. Who produces the milk? who produces the eggs? Will this make you think again when you just want a glass of milk? or the next time that you want to make eggs for breakfast? One must consider that if one isn’t vegan or a vegetarian, that one supports this form of oppression towards animals and women. What do you think?

One thing that makes me very angry, is the fact that these big companies that raise the chickens to be slaughtered and keep cows confined in small spaces, don’t even allow this to really be publicized. One can only imagine why. These chickens are so confined that they contract diseases being exposed to different bacterias while stepping on their own poop. Many of these companies just care about their profits, so these animals rights are not even taken into consideration.

What will you do to protect these chickens?

Will you think next when you go to your local food store? Will you take the organic free range eggs or the eggs that were laid by chickens with no room to move? A huge majority of the animals that are mistreated are female bodied.

I think that people need to rethink the way they look at their food. I know that organic/free range food is priced higher, but if you have the money, it’s worth it. People should protest against these companies because if you eat an animal that was injected with hormones, you will contract those same hormones just because that company wants to produce as much food and gain the most profit.

“The Politics of Self-Absolution”

I thought this section of del Boca’s article was really interesting, because I think a lot of countries with histories that are often somewhat shameful fall into this same trap. Italy made a symbolic gesture to “absolve” the sins of colonialism, but still fails to own up to the grave moral wrongs committed.

Honestly, though, I think all countries do this. For instance, almost every other year in elementary school, middle school, and high school, we were required to take American history. However, we always started at the very beginning with the Native Americans and the explorers and the pioneers, and we would never make it past the Civil War. While the way we treated Native Americans was truly awful, it’s hardly talked about. And then all of the more recent horrible stuff is omitted because we don’t get to it. But I have a theory that they do that on purpose, so that we’re never really exposed to things like Japanese internment camps, because the U.S. doesn’t want to own up to that still. It’s still rarely ever discussed, similarly to what del Boca was saying about colonialism in Italy.

Overall, while I agree with del Boca’s point, I honestly think it may be a little too idealistic when you consider the context of how countries strive to preserve national pride and image.

Margot’s Post on “Obligations of Italy Toward Libya.”

I am always the first to criticize the Italians for their actions in Africa. Even after all the readings we have done, I find it very hard to find any legitimate justifying reason for the Italians being in Africa. (Crispi’s attempt to build a nation is not legitimate) What really bothered me about Del Boca’s article is that he only talked about the bad aspects of Italian colonialism. At one point he does state: “I do not wish to deny that the Italian presence in Africa had some positive aspects,” but he doesn’t discuss any of the positive aspects.

It is also somewhat contradictory to say that no scholars condemn colonialism when Del Boca spends the whole article talking about the horrors of Italian colonialism, and mentions other scholars like him who write the same things. (The most recent source in the back of the article is 1999, the portrayal of colonialism has changed in Italy since then).

Del Boca does discuss the apology on the part of Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema. D’Alema was the first to publicly denounce Italy for her actions in Libya and stated that “The relationship between our two countries has had different moment in its history, including the negative period of colonialism, but today it is possible to build a relationship on a new basis of friendship, collaboration, and reciprocal respect… here (Libya) the national heroes were executed by Italians.”


This is an interesting BBC article about D’Alema’s trip

Italy’s Obligation

I found both of these articles interesting, though it was a little bit of deja vu from when we talked a little bit about this topic earlier in the course. One point I found controversial was at the end of the del boca article, del boca believes that Italian tourists will be the ones to repair the Italian-Libyan relationship. I really do not agree with this because the other things that we have been reading have been pointing out a lack of knowledge on the part of Italian youth about Italian colonialism and it seems that this would create an awkward situation because Libya obviously has not forgotten and it is something that is remembered amongst Libyan people, old and young. The way I see it, it would probably end up being a situation where Italian tourists were going to Libya for a casual vacation and A: Libya is probably not a good vacation spot now and B: Ignorant Italians are probably not the best ambassadors and are not the best way to say “sorry” when their government has had a lot of trouble being able to say such a simple word.

Gaddafi and Berlusconi. Gaddafi dressing weird and "captain-smiles" behind Berlusconi

Del Boca: The Obligations of Italians toward Libya

What I thought of as the most interesting aspect of this article, was how the government of Italy could get away with doing things in the name of Italians, without Italians ever knowing. It reminds me of the era of secrecy in the United States during the cold war. Furthermore, it amazes me how little is known about this history, yet there are people so dedicated to defending the nation’s actions.

These articles by Labanca and Del Boca presented yet another interesting contradiction in the actions of the Italian government: Although the Italian government was the only of the colonialists to ask for forgiveness for their actions towards Libya (Labanca), they refused to acknowledge their own crimes against humanity and their abuses against the Libyan natives (Del Boca). This lack of acknowledgement of the abuses issued by the Italian government answers the question of whether the past will ever be genuinely reconciled, and it will not be until obligations such as admitting criminal activities are fulfilled.

These articles complement one another.


This article presents the question: will acknowledgement of the past finally help to reconcile the past? As the article begins by states, “the past weighs on the present,” but it seems as though the remembrance of history is the actual cause of tension today. Regardless of the events, the debate of timeliness and impact seem to be one of the biggest contributing factors to today’s inability to synthesis a genuine friendship between the two countries. This article tells the story from the point of view how colonial occupation of Libya transformed Europe.

One of the most interesting points, to me, was, “Libya was more costly to maintain as a colony….[but], ‘Tripoli, beautiful land of love’ overcame every criticism.” Beauty, in this sense, was not limited to physical attractiveness, but also included the appeal of short distance and the economic vulnerability so that Italians may “govern.” True to form, the Italian government “exaggerated” their successes and ability…. This leads me to my greatest question in regards to the historical remembrance of colonial occupancy in Libya: How is it that with thousands of Italian civilians, were the Fascists able to maintain a facade in which they hid the realities of their occupation in Italy in regards to the treatment of natives?

The Italian government even went so far as to lie in government documents, particularly in the records of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This inaccuracy combined with an influenced memory of the Africans themselves makes the true historical past difficult to fully understand, because we, they, nobody can truly know the full events of Italian occupancy in Libya. Ultimately, I appreciate how Labanca concludes the article by placing the responsibility of piecing together the past to historians.

Finally, I found the actions of Berlusconi on his one day trip to Libya to parallel the actions of Mussolini when he visited Libya after Italy entered the country.

Italian Obligations

Though I found this article to be somewhat repetitive, I appreciated its loyalty to its purpose: the importance of Italy’s moral and material recognition of and reparations for their colonizing efforts in Africa. I agreed with the sentiment of the article that Italy still has not completely made up for the damages they caused. I found it very surprising to learn that Italy had not only offered to build a hospital as a physical and financial gesture of apology, they were, in fact, contractually obligated to complete the project and yet they never did. I find myself wondering how it has gone on for this long without someone stepping in and enforcing the contractual obligations. I liked that the article ended on a positive, and also ironic note, saying that with an increase in tourism from Italy to its old stomping grounds in Africa, modern day tourists may create the vacation destination that was originally intended.

Moral Debts

Between DelBoca’s and LaBanca’s articles it seems very clear to me that there is a huge debt to Libya that has yet to be paid. DelBoca focuses on material signs of apology such as the hospital and the few words D’Almea delivered, but he also mentions a moral debt that is owed to Libya and does not mention it ever being paid. I believe that the only form of moral apology that can be given to Libya from Italy is one of acknowledgment. Acknowledgment offers something that material gifts, such as hospital beds, can not. By acknowledging what happened in Libya and teaching it to Italians Italy would be showing signs of recognition towards their actions and would be teaching it in a manner that demonstrated the wrongness and repentance of their historical actions.

Through out countless countries students learn of the horrors of the Holocaust. In Germany it is a legal offense to even deny what happened during the Holocaust and offenders face jail time. These are the types of moral debts that Germany paid all of its victims which Italy needs to show Libya. These are not only matters of respect but also of banishing pride and doing the favorable action.

Labanca mentions travel guides of Italian colonialism as well as other recent guides which are prevalent in Libya. These guides are read by travelers, Italians included. I believe that these guides are a way of Libya attempting to seek the moral debt which Italy owes. The guides are a symbol, not only of Libya’s crying out to be recognized and reconciled, but also Italian traveler’s desire to know what happened and willingness to learn of it.