By Jeff Stark
One thing we are learning as a result of the Covid catastrophe is that positive actions can have immediate effects. For example, when the lockdown began one of the most visible results was a huge reduction in automobile traffic. Commuting to work by car represents, by some reports, about 30% of all automobile traffic. As we all know it consumes, for some, hours of every workday and is essentially unproductive time. It is unpleasant, expensive and can be a huge negative element in the social disruption that can make modern life so unfulfilling. However,there is also good news. According to the website cnbc.com "Air pollution has dropped to unprecedented levels across the world as major cities and countries impose lockdown measures to curb the spread of the corona virus."
The primary cause of this phenomenon, not surprisingly, is fairly easy to understand. It seems that if you stop behaviors that produce airborne pollution the negative effects of this airborne poison are reduced. According the Union of Concerned Scientists cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. It is also reported that over 7 million deaths are caused by air pollution every year. The really bad news is that both numbers are rising.
For a large percentage of the world's population this is not big news. Many of us who spend, or spent, significant time in Los Angeles remember a time when the air was clean enough on most days to see the mountains that ring the city. Now, on most days, the air in the City of Angels is more like the ring of dirt and grime that circles our bathtubs. While it is true that we are making progress the amount of air pollution released every day into the global atmosphere is still killing more and more of us.
The good news is that the virus has taught us, again, that we know how to stop and then reverse the growth and effects of air pollution. It is relatively simple: just stop making carbon dioxide. We are long past the time when there was any fact-based argument against the scientific data that recognize the fact that burning fossil fuels is the major cause of air pollution. Therefore, if we stop making this deadly gas we might all live longer. We know we are able to reverse the production of this major source of global warming. When we do, the reduction in automobile commuting and other uses promises to produce an immediate reduction in urban smog and other air pollutants.
We now have the most striking evidence yet that changing our habits changes the stress on our global ecosystem. The question is: How do we translate this knowledge into action?
WHAT WE CAN DO
Reduction of air pollution is not that difficult. All we need to do, on an individual and societal level, is make and act on conscious positive decisions. Time for a new car? If we choose we can re-configure our individual transportation systems by making that new car a pure electric or hybrid model. For most of us that simple choice could reduce our carbon footprint by 50%. Or, we can pass on buying a car and, if the math works in our particular case, try relying on Uber, Lyft and public transportation, all supplemented by an occasional rental. More and more of us are choosing carlessness for a reason - it works.
We can also make giant strides to reduce polllution by investing in a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system that makes electricity from sunshine. The PV economics are excellent. Once we make the decision we are insulated from the impact of the fact that our electricity prices, from our electrical utilities, are unlikely to go down. Making our own electricity is a rational choice for more of us all the time. Do the math and it is a choice that makes sense, and dollars, for more of us. Perhaps the best feature of this solution is that our energy costs will never go up. Try getting a deal like that from your local electric utility.
If we want to try to attack our electricity needs a piece at a time we can try starting out with a solar water heater. For the average US household making hot water represents 40% of our monthly utility bill. Installation of a solar unit will reduce our monthly energy bill and will be paid off in a few years. From then on our hot water will be free.
There are many other ways to change our energy habits and reduce our carbon footprints. The easiest quickest and most effective is almost always by conserving energy and changing our habits. We should always remember that being energy conscious and conscientious is a way of life, not just a one-time project. If, as individuals, we keep at it we will be successful. If we do we will all share in the credit and in the success.
To get started on how to get started check out the resources below.
But first - remember. If we want to make progress dealing with our environmental issues the best way may be to remove the current occupant of the White House. We should all vote early and encourage our friends and family to do so as well.
CLICK HERE for images of the reduction in Los Angeles' air pollution
Progress begins at home: Hare are some tips on "How to conserve energy at home"
And how to conserve energy at the office
Check out this short video to learn how to cut in-car pollution