Landscape and memory

The VW Bug

It is not an actual memory that I have, but a reconstructed one that was passed down to me from parents. I must have been 3 years old and my parents owned a VW bug. I still have memories of the smells of that car. I don’t know what it is about those cars, but they all smell the same. If I get in a bug now the smell brings me back to my childhood being in the back seat of that car. VW bugs, zippo lighters and Rothman cigarettes are my earliest memories.

The car was white with a red interior. No seat belts. Now in our uber-safety conscious mind it scares me to think that my sister and I rode in this car. That was the way the world was then.


If one were to think of our time as period of crisis, central to this situation is the automobile. It is not just about climate change, but more broadly involves issues of public heath, urban livability, international trade, governance, business, employment, social justice and equality across the world.

The narratives that connect these very diverse themes are an emerging discourse between the connections between ecological, economically and cultural sustainability on public health and urban planning. As an analytical discourse of their respective fields of study there is much work being done in this area.

While on a cognitive level a body of work is emerging which is undertaking a critical analysis of the car and its many consequences to urban planning, climate change and public health, more understanding is required of our emotional attachment to the car.

How memories of places that we walk have been altered by the car and how the car is also transforming our bodies needs more exploration.

There is a narrative that is deeply embedded into our childhood memories and reconstructed family memories of how the private ownership of cars has transformed us and our culture.

This realization came to me after my father died while I was going over his life and my childhood. Part of my father’s life was the story of transition from steam engine as the principle mode of transportation to the rise of the private ownership of cars. This narrative of my family and of the car had many consequence with far reaching effects both for me and the culture that I live in. But also this personal story mirrors the rise in the influence of the car and how it changed my family and the places where we live.


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