You Will Drive Nowhere and Like It
When conspiracy theories abound, what happens when the paranoia becomes real.
In the aftermath of the horrific fires that engulfed Maui, competing narratives began fighting for online oxygen. Some pointed to climate change as the culprit, others to poor land management, and others to conspiracy theories about the blaze being set on purpose. The fires in Maui and the response from pundits point to a race for everyone needing a “take,” no matter how half-baked for every minutia of news. Every occurrence, from school shootings to viral songs, has to be interpreted through a prism of political angst, no matter how disconnected the person opining is from the actual event.
The broad strokes of the conspiracy center around the fire in Hawaii being intentionally set to bring in a green initiative to build a 15-minute city in a highly desirable piece of real estate. These 15-minute cities are an urban design principle for neighborhoods to encourage biking and walking, where everything you need, from grocery stores to bars and restaurants, is a short stroll from your home. The concern is they could be a backdoor to implement restrictions on movement to combat climate change.
This conspiracy theory is exceedingly likely false. Although rare, Hawaii has had forest fires before, and the probable culprits are high winds and incompetence in letting grasses overgrow. The validity of these conspiracies is less interesting than how ubiquitous they are in culture. They speak to a primal need to make sense of an indecipherable world.
Maui is a perfect Rorschach test. There has indeed been a push to “green” the city, and the 15-minute city initiative has been discussed as the future of the island. The proposal is similar to many of the recommendations of the Green New Deal and stakeholder capitalism pushed by Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum.
On the surface, a walkable city with parks and mixed-use areas seems excellent; anyone who has spent time in neighborhoods built like this would be hard-pressed to say they’re awful. However, these programs never seem to help working people and are more about building power than bike lanes. And the residents aren’t crazy to be concerned about developers trying to buy up their land. Does it matter if you lost your ancestral land because of a fire set on purpose or accidentally?
As always, Global Britain is the testing ground for these new power grabs. Oxford is implementing a 15-minute city program, which has caused protests and consternation from people living in the new utopia. Starting in 2024, Oxford residents will be charged 70 pounds for driving without permission from their designated zones, enforced by an array of CCTV traffic cameras. The Oxfordshire County Council has lamented the misinformation they claim this new law has caused. However, in the following sentence, they say, “...the traffic filters might in future restrict residents’ ability to drive by private car into other areas of the city and that people might have to use a different route to avoid the filters.”
They seem genuinely confused as to why a person might balk at being charged 70 quid to drive through their own city. This “Bloomberg” article embodies the schizophrenic tone of media coverage by describing it as both a right-wing conspiracy and something for the good of the residents. Don’t worry; they may allow specific exceptions for delivery vehicles and the ability to apply for a twenty-five-day-per-year pass to drive without a fine because our new lords are nothing if not kind. The concept of freedom of movement laid out in the Magna Carta in 1215 is no impediment to faceless bureaucracy.
In London, they have just expanded the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) to include all of the outer boroughs. This law means anyone with a gasoline car made before 2006 or a diesel vehicle made before 2016 will be charged £12.50 per day for driving. Only an intellectual class so banal and witless as Sadiq Khan and his ilk wouldn’t recognize how destructive this is for the working poor. Maybe that’s the point. Some enterprising Londoners have taken to destroying more than 300 of the cameras; if only they would all buy Teslas, this could be avoided.
This house of mirrors makes one wonder if incompetence is to blame instead of sheer malice, but malice isn’t the only type of evil. It indeed leads people to see conspiracy theories in the world around them. Unfortunately, the conspiracies have become a reality for the blue-collar father in London who wants to drive his family to a park or, god forbid, to work.