Sunday, December 04, 2005

Worst invention of all time?

This certainly looks like fun! For most cyclists, the obvious, Number One Favorite for worst invention of all time would be the motor vehicle. But that's sooo easy! It effects our environment due to the exhaust fumes and oil exploration. It impacts our cities because of the need for car-friendly infrastructure. It dictates our governmental policy that swaps blood for oil. I could go on and on, but it gets tedious. We all know the arguments.

So instead, I'll pick something a little more removed, like the drivers licensing system.

The NRA points out that a firearm is merely a piece of machinery, basically harmless until it's in a human hand. It the human aspect that has to be addressed, whether we're discussing 45 automatics or Humvees. I'm stating that the process of obtaining a license to drive is entirely too easy. It's a rite of passage for teenagers, and here in Oklahoma, far too many of them could get their licenses on their 16th birthday. The state recently stiffened the requirements, much to the chagrin of my 15-year-old son! Still, it's too easy.

We know that new drivers are more likely to have an accident in the first 2 years after getting their license. They need that time to develop good judgment behind the wheel. So wouldn't it be sensible to put some phased restrictions on them for those first 2 years? A license to drive should be difficult to earn. Once earned, it should be highly valued, and if it's lost, it should be doubly hard to re-obtain.

I know there are problems with this line of thought. If licensing requirements were too onerous, people would simply drive without one. Our jails are too crowded already, so why not make these offenders do community service in lieu of jail time? Think of it - picking up trash, washing police cars, or weeding a park every weekend for a year or so. No time off. No vacation. Do the public service or spend the time in jail. I suspect that one or two kids in the local high school would be object lessons for the rest.

The contest entry requires an actual typewritten letter, something I haven't done in years, so I won't enter. But if a CycleDog reader wants to borrow some of this text, please feel free to do so!

Here's the site:

Ecologist Annual Essay Competition
In association with the Coady International Institute

What is Humanity’s worst Invention?

The winning entry will receive a cheque for £2,500 and publication in the Ecologist magazine

Essay criteria: all essays must be typewritten, responses must be in English, up to 2.000 words. Entries will be judged on originality, critical thinking, clarity and the ability to spark debate.

Deadline for entries: 15 March 2006

Please submit entries to: essay2006@theecologist

Rules of entry: All essays are the property of the Ecologist. Published essays will be credited to the writer. Telephone and/or email contact details must be included. We regret that materials submitted cannot be returned. For full completion rules visit

Established by St Francis Xavier University in 1959, the Coady International Institute is world-renowned as a centre of excellence in community-based development.


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