A perfect synecdoche — the part that symbolizes the greater whole — for the crisis of overshoot that is currently bedeviling the world is the popularity of that personal transportation device known as the automobile. That popularity formed at the beginning of the Twentieth Century because of two developments. This timing also corespondents with an outer planet midpoint as mentioned previously
The (internal combustion) automobile was invented — using the date of the patent — on January 29, 1886 by Carl Benz, whose name is still present in the brand Mercedes Benz. This was after the internal combustion engine, so important to the automobile — even though the early ones were powered by other means, such as electric batteries or external combustion engines more commonly known as steam power, eg the Stanley Steamer — was invented over the previous decades.
Looking for the chart of this event, we see it is near the conjunction of the two outer planets Neptune and Pluto which was exact in 1890 and so colored the end of the Nineteenth Century and set the stage of the great change that would happen 100 years later with the conjunctions of Uranus and Pluto and Uranus and Neptune, which would complete the three conjunction of those three outer planets, indicating a 500 year cycle, which has been discussed in this blog many years ago. The most notable aspect at the time of this invention was the tight Jupiter-Uranus conjunction. Richard Tarnas calls this aspect one of creativity and expansion, and shows how many inventions have been developed under aspects of these two planets.
The automobile started out as a rich man plaything, because the first automobiles were quite expensive but later were later greatly reduced in price. This is similar to the development of cell phones, which once were quite expensive (and large) but soon became so inexpensive that almost everyone had one. But there were two events that changed that all and made automobiles and driving a common phenomena.
The first was the discovery of oil in Texas. On January 10, 1901 oil was discovered on Spindletop Hill in southeastern Texas. Oil had been known for centuries, and oil ls considered to have been discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859, but the discovery at Spindletop was different, it was the first gusher. The gusher at Spindletop was producing 100,000 barrels a day at the beginning. Suddenly there was plenty of oil for whatever was needed. And this led to the discoveries of other gushers also in East Texas and the Permian Basin.
In the chart for this discovery, one aspect stands out: the opposition between Jupiter and Neptune. One of the many items that Neptune rules is oil, the very substance that so controls the present world and is an important subject of this essay. When we combine Jupiter with Neptune, we have a lot of oil, which is exactly what this discovery represents. The orb is less than one degree. There is also a Uranus opposition to Pluto, which was one of the astrological highlights of the first decade of the Twentieth Century, and has been discussed before in the Birth of Modernism.
The second development was the Model T Ford. The first model T was produced on October 1, 1908. This was the first car for the masses; it was a relatively inexpensive car that real people could afford, and not just the wealthy. And Henry Ford, who was to become the third most wealthy individual in America in the early Twentieth Century, realized that he needed to pay his employees enough so they could afford the automobiles that they were making.
The first Model-T’s were in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, a period which I have previously called the birth of Modernism when many things changed, such as the popularity of movies and the first airplane flight. In this chart we have Pluto square Mars — transformative energy — and Saturn opposite the Sun — on this day there is some limitation, but of course we would not realize what the limitation was until many decades later.
Automobiles change their environment in so many ways. There is obvious pollution from first the construction of the vehicle from metals, plastics, and with the increasing addition of electronics to automobiles, certain rare elements such as lithium. Then there is pollution from car exhaust and wheel dust. Next consider the number of people and animals killed by these high speed devices, not only people outside the vehicles but also often drivers and passengers are killed or severely injured. Automobiles extend the range for humans greatly since they travel at high speeds, allowing the colonization of areas previously unavailable to human exploitation. This has caused the limitation of habitat for wild animals; also, the increasing spread of roadways necessary to deliver the humans to their new dwellings make travel for animals increasingly precarious. The term ” road-kill” is now a common one and that term came in to existence only because of the deaths caused automobile and the highways on which they travel.
There are several events that can be considered the first death due to an automobile: the death of a diver, the death of a passenger, the death of a pedestrian.
The first death from an automobile happened long before the first internal combustion automobile was patented. Mary Ward was a Irish woman — astronomer, artist, author — who was killed when she was tossed from a home-made steam car built by her cousins and trapped under its wheels. She is considered the first traffic fatality. Steam (external combustion) was at the time considered suitable for cars, but it was not until the development of the internal combustion engines that the idea of the automobile took off.
In the chart for this event, the most obvious aspect is the conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto at the Descendant (but note this is a chart set for noon). Jupiter Pluto aspects are fairly common, and I haven’t gotten a handle on them. From the symbolism, one would expect a plenitude of transformation.
The first death of a pedestrian occurred when Henry Bliss was hit by an automobile on September 14, 1899. Henry Bliss was killed by an electric taxicab, proving that both electric cars and taxicabs existed early on in the development of the automobile, and in fact this happened in the Nineteenth Century. In this chart the most notable aspect is the opposition between Saturn and Pluto, an aspect that was also prominent in the Spanish-American War chart. Those two planets — whose conjunction will highlight January 2020 — are always ominous.
One result of our increasing fascination with the automobiles is increased death and destruction. The more obvious deaths and maiming are of automobile drivers and passengers rather than of pedestrian and cyclists. There were about 36000 people killed by cars in the last year, which is a slight decrease from the year before, but this was accompanied by an increase in the number of deaths of pedestrians and cyclists. A recent case in Germany that inflamed the public was a SUV that jumped the curb and killed four people on the sidewalk, prompting demands that SUVs be banned in that country. SUVs are now among the most popular of vehicles (other than large pickup trucks, which often are built on the same chassis as that of SUVs), driving to extinction the venerable station wagon, even though SUVs are not only more deadly to people outside the vehicle, but also, contrary to popular opinion, more dangerous to drivers because of increased probability of rollover. But people do like to feel that they are safe in their armoured vehicles high above the common driver.
But usually not taken account of, cars are deadly to wildlife and domestic animals. Think of the number of dead cats and dogs in any urban environment. And, if you live in a rural area, you are aware of all the roadkill populating the side of highways where the dead deer end up. Roadkill provides meat to those of rural areas too impoverished to afford a decent supply of store bought meat, so that can be counted as a plus for the increasing use of cars and the increasing inequality.
But besides all the death from automobiles, think of all the accidents that do not result in death but result in injuries ranging from minor to severe that may change one’s life forever. Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and auto repair shops are provided with business by all these accidents, thus helping the economy. All these events that harm individuals increase the GDP of a country.
Before the popularity of cars, cross-country walking was a thing. Nowadays, people who walk are called “pedestrians”, a term that also means mundane or commonplace, dull. With the rise of the automobile, the increasingly few who depend on their feet for travel are considered plebeian or commonplace when compared to those who travel with cars.
The first road trip, that is across the country from one coast of the United States to the other, was a trip from San Francisco, California to New York City. It started in San Francisco in the afternoon of May 23, 1903 and finished in Manhattan on July 26 at 4:30 in the morning. Horatio Nelson Jackson, a retired doctor, was bet $50 in an upscale San Francisco bar that a car could not cross the country in less than 90 days (shades of Jules Verne). He got bicycle mechanic Sewall Crocker to accompany him in a 20 horsepower Winton touring car (certainly appropriate) which they named Vermont. Since there were no motels, gas stations, or roadside diners along the way, they packed sleeping bags. Automobiles were considered by many at the time as a fad that would not last and certainly too unreliable to make it across the country. At times they needed horses to pull the stranded car and blacksmith shops to perform the repairs. For most of the trip the were accompanied by a dog names Bud who wore motoring goggles to protect his eyes. The story soon proved popular to the general public, and after they finally reached Chicago they had put the hardest part of the trip behind them, and arrived in Manhattan early in the morning.
Looking at the two charts representing the start and end of this first road trip shows nothing very spectacular. The Descendant represents (for charts in the Northern hemisphere) the West, where the trip started, and the Ascendant represents the East, where the trip ended. In the first chart, the Moon is setting in the West, where the trip began. In the second chart, the Sun is rising in the East, where the trip ends. So symbolically these two charts capture that start and end of the first road trip.
The mass usage of automobiles, having enough gasoline because of the discovery at Spindletop, started in the first decade of the Twentieth Century and has grown with each passing year. This has allowed humankind to expand, covering more and more of the land needed for mammals, insects, birds. Houses and buildings have been built on more and more land, reducing the area for wild animals. This expansion has allowed people to live in remote areas previously unavailable to all except the most intrepid explorers.
Automobiles have increasingly polluted the environment. First because of burning of a petroleum product has added carbon dioxide and aerosols to the atmosphere. But another major pollutant has been tire dust. It was recently discovered (recent article in the Los Angeles Times) that one of the major sources of micro-plastic pollution in the San Francisco Bay was particle from the tires of all the automobiles driven in the Bay Area. The amount produced by tire dust was many orders of magnitude greater that which came from other sources, such as the laundering of synthetic fabrics.
If one were an outside observer of the planet — the prototype is a typical Martian — the dominant life form of the planet Earth would be the automobile. These creatures would be seen to have a symbiotic relation with small creatures that feed them, clean them, and buy them fuzzy dice as decorations. In turn the automobiles take their symbiotes to places. Notice that much of the world is taken up with areas for this dominant life forms: Highways, parking lots, and personal parking lots called driveways with attached small homes called garages that are filled with possessions of their owners and not with the cars that they were originally designed for, have increasingly covered the surface of the planet, changing the climate, breaking up areas of land so that creatures can no longer move as widely as before, and allowing people to occupy more and more land.
The introduction of the automobile, as a recent book (Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom — Sarah A. Seo) has shown, has allowed the police to intervene in our lives much more often that was previously imaginable. The idea of police stopping people of a certain race was unusual but now “driving while black” is still a common occurrence. Being stopped for such a thing as having an outdated sticker on your license plate is an almost normal occurrence. People think that when police stop them they are allowed to search the vehicle (not true) which causes many to be arrested for something other than a traffic violation.
With the population increase expected in the upcoming years, and the increasing demand for a car by the impoverished masses who are increasing their wealth, one can expect that the automobile and the trends outlined above will become increasingly dominant in the world, resulting in more and more death and destruction. That is the future we can look forward to if nothing changes!