I gave a talk at the Jewish Free School today, which used to be in Camden but is now in the wilds of Kingsbury on a purpose built PFI site (prop Jarvis) opened by Tony Blair six years ago. It was a salutory experience. I decided to sock it to the pupils, who were from the upper sixth, about cars and the damaging effects of car dependency and they gave as good as they got.
It was rather like declaring support for Spurs at the Emirates – they cheered when several speakers asked questions that essentially were on the theme: public transport is horrid and for sados, why should we not use our cars. One young man asked a very cute question. While accepting that peak oil might send the price of motoring soaring, he said ‘Why shouldn’t we enjoy the cheap use of cars while we can?’
The teacher who had invited me said that many of these ‘children’ already have their own cars and even though they are not allowed to park them on site, there is no controlled parking zone locally so they just leave them outside. They were on the whole dismissive of public transport, claiming it was expensive – one girl said that it was £2 for a bus when, in fact, it is £1 with an Oyster card but she then said ‘what if you forget your card?’, while another
They did not seem to realise that in their lifetimes it is highly likely that routine motoring will simply become too expensive as the oil starts to run out. They seemed utterly unconcerned about this even when it was pointed out to them.
It was an enjoyable if somewhat dispiriting experience. Audiences like that are far more difficult to handle than adult ones or even TV interviews, because they are ready to challenge all assumptions. Their ignorance of the real world, together with their failure to realise that things will not necessarily go on as they are today, makes it very difficult to find a way to challenge them.