by Pratima Agrawal
If you haven’t heard already, the world has a monumental crisis on its hands, which has only recently been given the attention that it deserved long ago, and that crisis is global warming. The Earth is getting hotter and it will mean the end of civilization if it is not stopped. We humans are the cause of it and we alone are responsible for stopping it from destroying the planet that has given us so much.
The cause of global warming comes from Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that collect in the atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat, which results in the rise of planet temperatures. Much of these GHGs are in the form of carbon dioxide, which enters the atmosphere primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas, and coal. Automobiles are the second largest source of GHGs after coal-burning power plants and the U.S. continues to lead the way in global warming pollution, emitting more carbon dioxide than China, Japan, and India combined—this is not something to be proud of. Our car-driven culture is killing our planet, from the melting of polar ice caps that so many animals depend upon for survival, to unstable and menacing weather patterns.
Now, if you’re one of those folks that believes technology will save the day, you can wait around for another ten or fifteen years for technology to catch up while the planet’s health continues to spiral downward at a rapidly increasing pace or you can do something today. Using public transit on a regular basis is one of the best ways you can reduce GHG emissions, whether it be riding the bus, using train services, or just putting those sidewalks to good use. While not an absolute solution, hybrid technology can help reduce emissions, and if you absolutely must buy a new car, consider a small hybrid or diesel vehicle (diesel cars can be converted to run on bio-diesel and bio-diesel is an environmentally sound form of fuel that has been around for at least 100 years).
Nevertheless, the best way to cut GHGs significantly is to get cars off the roads altogether. Light rail has the ability to not only revitalize our cities economically, but also to cut carbon emissions drastically, as demonstrated by Portland, Oregon and its LRT system which has contributed to the reduction of its region’s carbon emissions to a level below 1990. Cities all over the U.S., including Houston, Minneapolis, and Tampa, are embracing light rail and reaping its benefits, and more are on their way. The Lehigh Valley does not need a car-dominated culture to compete in the 21st century. It can bring in the jobs, the young people, and the exciting lifestyle with public transit, and do it conveniently and cleanly.
So how you can affect change on a larger scale? Contact your local elected officials and demand more environmental responsibility in the form of funding for public transit and fuel emission standards. Educate yourself on ways to reduce your energy consumption and fossil fuel emissions. Spread the word to everyone you know and get involved in community environmental efforts. There is not enough time to stand around and wait for others to do the work. We ALL must change or the planet will.
by Pratima Agrawal
Pratima is a member of Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil