Posts Tagged ‘Oil spill’

Time to open our eyes!

Hi everyone!

This Monday, I went of on a rant about transportation, campaigns and some other stuff. Today, I red an article at grist.org. It is about the rather pessimistic tone the environmental debate have taken in USA, were the “left” wing present ideas to solve environmental problems and the right wing shoots them down, in the name of the market. This is a very simplified picture of course. And I am sure it isn’t totally like this in USA.

But it does raise a couple of new questions that I have touched before. The government need to understand that the car isn’t sacred, and that mass transit actually is a good thing. The car isn’t sacred, as the Michael Linds article that the Grist article was based on seems to assume. It is true that rich countries have a higher density of cars, as people can afford them. Does that mean that public transportation isn’t an option in the future, especially in urban areas? And the reason many drive to work from the suburbs is 1) habit and 2) lack  of descent mass transit systems. So when new suburbs are built, make sure there are bus-lines! Trains may be expensive, but buses use the same infrastructure as the rest of the traffic. This is how it is done in Sweden, at least in cities that think ahead.

Michael Lind is right on one thing though… Asphalt may not be exciting, but new and low particle emitting asphalt is something to pay out for. It reduces wear and tear on the road, noise, particles and lowers fuel consumption, and thereby CO2 and NOx…
But the bottom line is that there have to be an attitude shift. I have said that before, haven’t I. Both from the politicians point of view and from the people. I am not talking about USA here, but in general. While the European governments are less conservative and are more keen on discussing CO2, there is still to much discussion and to little action. And climate denialists and traditionalists exist here to. The difference is that religion is less of an issue in the politic game in Europe and the climate model is the norm. I am not going to harp about religion being bad, because in itself there is nothing wrong with being religious. Hiding behind it or using the argument “god wants it” is a bit medieval though, right?

Ok, I got sidetracked again… Sorry. Attitude shifts… I really think that the conservative wing, regardless of continent view environmentalists as smug, self righteous, smug hippies. And there are many of them around. You know who you are! Many seems to hate cars, or even development. But is this how most people who work with environmental issues are. Is this how most interested persons out there are? Once again, to much focus is placed in the wrong places. Get serious and see opportunities instead of sticking the head in the sand. So much could be done for the environment if one started to look for opportunities. Wind and solar power and publit transportation are some of those opportunities. In Europe, they have expanded. Why haven’t they in North America? With the oil-spill, declining amount of fossil fuels, climate change, thinning glaciers and disturbed weather, it is time to open our eyes!

Well, I’m off. I have some statistics to finish. Have a nice one, and remember to follow us on facebook and twitter, and to Commute Greener!

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Fredrik

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Oil, attitudes and habits. Prepare for a rant

Hello.

Today’s entry will have a more serious tone then yesterdays. Once again, I had something else planned but got sidetracked. Through one of our followers on twitter, I came across this article. I promised myself not to delve into the oil-spill, but here I go. The article is about the BP oil spill, and what have to be done to reduce the effects. The author makes a good case about what he thinks  must be done. For all of you that don’t have time to read a full article, here is the short version: The gulf oil-spill is causing a shortage of oil in USA. Instead of trying to remedy that with short term oil imports there have to be long term changes in attitudes from drivers and government. Public transportation needs to be spruced up, and bicycle lanes need to be better planned and constructed. And a total of 20% of reduction of driving is required.

Commute Greener! is all about reducing needless driving and promoting use of public transportation and bicycle lanes. 20% reductions of driving sounds harsh, but statistics from users show that IT IS possible. But many reductions pre-suppose the existence of well planned and proportioned public transportation network, as well as bicycle lanes. The main part that struck me in the article was how different views Americans have compared to the situation for me on this side of the pond. The car is holy, taxes are bad and a tax on gasoline is sacrilege. And petrol is dirt cheep. I have of course known this for a long time but never really considered the problems of trying to change the citizens’ habits.

When I look at this article and the environmental debate in USA from an outsider’s perspective, I see a need for stronger regulations and environmental taxes. I come from Sweden however, and that is what is normal for me. The problem of excessive driving is very much an economical issue as well as one based on attitudes. People are afraid of change. And as long as it is cheep to take the car, why take the bus. As long as the gasoline is somewhat expensive, they may consider different options. The problem here is that interest groups of habitual drivers always get so much attention in the debate. While I understand the need for a car, driving five miles to work is not a sustainable way of commuting. But if you never have taken the bus and have heard all kinds of bad things about it, or never rode the bike in town, would you really dare to try? busstop

There has to be a change of attitudes from the top to stimulate the public transportation system. At the same time I am a huge advocate of grassroot action, but for something as big as this, will also need governments to take actions as well. California’s “new” Assembly Bill 32 may bring an interesting and inspiring change in 2011. Only time will tell.

What I wrote yesterday about that there is a demand for bicycle lanes that is very important. If you like to use the bike you will have to demand proper and safe roads from the politicians. If the public transportation system is under-dimensioned and slow, get active. The politicians don’t know if they should act if no one tells them. After all, they are there to serve you, the voters. I do understand that there are many of them who don’t care about the environment, and think that climate change is a hoax, but they will think about the election. The same is true for a better public transportation system.

Most of what I have written today is aimed at USA but is true in other parts of the world as well. Canada, UK, China, Japan, Sweden, it doesn’t matter which country; CO2 emissions must be reduced. Building functioning and environmental friendly commute systems are a crucial factor in changing the habits of commuters. We can’t reduce the dependence on oil, and the following environmental problems, without changing habits. And then we are back were we started.

Well, I think I have ranted enough for today. Feel free to comment, and give tips about how to change people’s habits. Good ones will be quoted in a later entry. And remember to follow us on twitter and facebook. And Commute Greener!

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Fredrik

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