Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Environmental Rant

I live on a large compound of about 225 houses.  The occupants are highly educated professionals, mostly employed in the energy sector.  Some of the spouses are school teachers, some nurses, one is a judge, there are bank managers and accountants and retired engineers.  People you would expect to be informed and conscientious about all sorts of things.

 My neighbour has two teenage children who attend a school on the other side of town.  There is a school bus for this school, which leaves the compound about 7.10 each morning.  The school bus picks up at the main club house, which is about 100 metres from their house as the crow flies.  To walk it is less than 200 metres, and to drive, it is about 300 metres.

 Sometimes it is very hot here, as you know.  During the summer when it is about 50, school is closed and all the families flee.  Most of the school year it is warm – maybe 30 – lately it has been a very pleasant 20 or so.  It almost never rains.  At 7 am it is usually quite comfortable.

 My neighbour drives her offspring to the bus every morning.  EVERY MORNING.

 We all know that vehicles pollute.  Do you know that the worst pollution occurs during the ‘cold start’ phase, when the engine is cold and the catalytic converter has not yet reached optimum temperature?  Emissions are highest during those first 5-10 minutes of operating.

I did a little calculation on the emissions (cold start only) my neighbour has generated over the 5 years she has driven her children to the bus every morning:
5 years x 8 months x 5 days = about 850 trips

Conservatively, each cold start produces: 2.5 g VOC (volatile organic compounds, ie hydrocarbons); 2.1 g NOx (oxides of nitrogen); 19.7 g CO (carbon monoxide); and particulate matter.  (Rates from the US EPA, based on an average passenger car, not a 4x4monster.)

 These translate to:  2.125 kg VOC, 1.785 kg NOx and 16.745 kg CO over the five years.

 It takes longer to get into the car, start it and drive around the corner, than it does to walk.  What does it teach the teenagers about consumption, exercise, independence? 

 Most mornings I am having my second cup of tea when this extravagance unfolds in front of my window.  Most mornings I shake my head in frustration and wonder.

 Global warming?  Not my problem, eh?


Jenny Woolf said...

Do the teenagers weigh 20 stone? It does sound odd. Have you asked your neighbour why they don't walk?

Only possible if you are on chatting terms I suppose.

It might be that this is a bit of time with the kids when she can get their attention and remind them of things etc. Some teens do have to be trapped in a car before they will speak or listen :)

Friko said...

Jenny's question was mine too before I read her comment.

It's those kids who will inherit the mum's world.
That sort of thing is quite incomprehensible to me. Most parents in the village walk their children to school (there are a couple of slightly busy roads involved,) but very few from inside the village drive there.

You could ask the mum, without making a big deal of it. She might have a reason? Perhaps they have no legs? Hm, unlikely.

jabblog said...

Quite ridiculous! Is she afraid they'll be abducted on the way if they walk?

Rubye Jack said...

Here in Oklahoma it is common for people to drive less than a block to a neighbor's house. In my community, people drive to the house next door. No, I am not joking. Personally, I just don't get it.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Wow, this rant really speaks to me....everyone acts like the earth's resources are not finite......sigh. Thanks for your thought-provoking post about this unthinking behavior.

Vagabonde said...

You are right – most people think that global warming is someone else problem. Here in Cobb County, Georgia, many mothers carry they children to school in their large SUVs and the school buses are almost empty. You can really tell during holidays because the rush hour is bearable when those parents don’t drive. The funny thing is that many of these women who will wait in a parking lot in their cars to get a closer spot near the grocery store, will later change into their athletic clothes and go jogging…. I also read that there is an epidemic of asthma in children in rich subdivisions where they are driven everywhere. Their young lungs get harmed by all the exhaust, and even more so from the large SUV vehicles. Here are people who want the best for their kids and are hurting their health….

Anonymous said...

I missed this post earlier Isabel - and I'm sorry because it really strikes a cord with me.
I no longer own a car, but even when I did I didn't drive my kids to school! I understand that a number of people actually can't physically cannot walk from a to b but if it's less than 2 miles I always take the walk (or run) option ... a lone voice in the wilderness ...