Do we deserve traffic jams? Ask cats and dogs


It’s weird how things that seem completely unrelated are, in fact, more or less connected. On February 5th, 2010, just five days after the traffic ban in Milan, with caused a storm of discussions, an absolutely unusual event, that is some inches of snow falling in full winter, created even more chaos than usual on the streets of Milan and all the surrounding area.

During that afternoon, the speakers of Caterpillar (a popular talk-show on a national radio station asked to all Milan citizens who were listening inside their cars to call and tell how long they had already been blocked in the streets and how long they thought they would still remain there.

After a few anonymous guys, a lady called and introduced herself as a “broker” (that is saleswoman, as far as I understood) working in the field of… organic/bio pet food. It looks like that afternoon she was driving back home after a very successful meeting in which she had managed to get a big order for some “natural” food for dogs or cats made of “bio” or organic duck and salmon meat.

After hearing that lady, I have spent days thinking to the thousands blocked for hours in traffic jams caused that day by some inches of snow (snow that, maybe, could not be removed by trucks… because the streets were full of cars). How many of them were there that day on the streets, wasting their time and the time of everybody else stuck in the same traffic jam, because of valid, undelayable activities like that??? I wonder because, if there are people who fill the streets for such reasons in Milan when it snows, there are surely many people who do the same everywhere, every day.

Let me make something very clear: I am not angry with the “broker” lady, who surely is a very good person and surely has a mortgage that must be paid every month in some honest way, as anybody else. I could also believe without problems, if I really asked myself such a question, that dogs and cats fed with “organic” duck and salmon live much better than less lucky pets.

The point is that, on one side, people already waste thousands of hours blocked inside cars for no reason (and this wouldn’t change a bit if everybody drove zero-emission cars). On another side, advertising has built around house pets a whole world of artificial needs (of the owners, not of the pets) that pollute too much even if a dog didn’t pollute twice as a SUV. Did you know that the pet food industry is now paying all its attention to such basic trends as pet food made just for “between-meals snacks and monodose packaging”? I wonder how many salespeople driving around such trends produce…

So, the next time you remain stuck in traffic for hours, please remember that one of the reasons, as it happened on that afternoon around Milan, may be the fact that there are people who buy “bio duck/salmon snacks” for their pets, instead of feeding them with with their leftovers or some home-made fresh food. If you need to get mad because you’re wasting your life behind a steering wheel, get mad at such people, not at pets or at people who try to make an honest living by selling stuff for which there is, no question about it, a market.

Here is some final homework, no, carwork for you, to kill time when the next traffic jam will make you lose a medical check-up or some other urgent appointment:

  • figure out where we should put more cars, especially those subsidized with public money
  • Above all: estimate how many of the people who (just like you) are polluting the air and filling the streets with their cars in that moment, are doing it just to satisfy some totally artificial need, yours or of somebody else
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