“The technology we need most badly is the technology of community, the knowledge about how to cooperate to get things done.” – Bill McKibben
The How to Save a Planet podcast released an episode called “Is Your Carbon Footprint BS?” In it, the hosts settle a debate between two siblings about whether individual actions matter when we need big, systemic solutions to address the climate crisis. Wow, I thought, a family accepting the science on the crisis and debating the solutions instead of the cause.
I started to be truly alarmed by climate change 20 years ago when my twins were born and I realized the environment we take for granted could be dangerously degraded during their lifetimes. Worrying about my children’s climate future became one of my main concerns.
And yet, listening to that podcast made me realize how unusual it is to discuss my fear with my dad and extended family. For us, the dinosaur in the room is the conclusion that humans burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of global climate change. (I know that fossil fuels don’t come from long-buried dinosaurs, but my childhood included that bit of misinformation in the form of the Sinclair dinosaur sitting on top of their gas stations.)
My father is a retired executive of a multi-national, oil-related company. My mother’s family has a long history in the oil industry, starting in the early 1900s with my great-great-grandfather. Much like being an Army brat, being an oil patch kid has its own subculture and mythology, plus we move around a lot. It may sound like a contradiction for someone committed to addressing climate change, but I love my dad’s stories about the oil business because they’re full of adventure from around the world. His tales are a cross between 1800s gold rushes and the Indiana Jones movies.
A few involve planes making crash landings–onto a South American ocean beach and a runway in the Arabian Desert during a sandstorm. Another one ends with an escape from a pack of wild dogs.
But let’s get back to that podcast.
The question posed doesn’t consider the role of culture. I’m not an anthropologist, but it seems to me that individuals can drive cultural changes, which can drive systemic change. Sure, one person driving an electric car will have such a de minimis impact on the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere that it is basically zero. But millions of people choosing to drive electric vehicles could have a significant impact and signal an important cultural shift. When you make changes that decrease your impact on the environment, you’re also influencing others’ decisions. Collectively we can impact the environment we leave to future generations.
I recently learned of some scientists who are concerned about climate change and are also moms. They created the Science Moms organization to provide useful information to mothers who are concerned about the environment their children will inherit. Climate change is not a future event. It is happening now. Science Moms communicate the coming changes in a timeframe a mother can relate to–the time it takes for a newborn to grow up.
Science Moms inspired me to start having those climate conversations with my family. Explaining your commitment to others is part of making that cultural shift. The predications from climate scientists that I learned about in 2000 when my twins were born are happening now. We have passed the “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” moment. But there is still time to act.
As a community transit agency, Via believes that we have a responsibility to respond to climate change. In Colorado, the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comes from transportation. We’ve undertaken the ambitious goal of providing zero-emissions transportation in our eight-county service area. It’s a big undertaking, but we have a plan.
First, in partnership with the City of Boulder, Via will replace the fleet of 17 diesel buses that we operate on the city’s HOP public transit route with zero-emission electric buses by 2030. We’re nearly a third of the way there; we already have four electric buses rolling around Boulder. Second, we will replace the 120 gas-powered vehicles in our paratransit fleet with zero-emission vehicles by 2035. And third, we have begun building a microgrid infrastructure at our headquarters to capture solar energy on-site. We will store this energy in batteries that will power our operations facilities and charge our electric fleets with renewable energy, which means we’ll be providing net-zero transit.
Via provides over one million rides a year across all our transit services and making all those trips without emitting GHGs will have a significant impact. We’ll also be helping the State of Colorado reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 50% by 2030.
By donating to Via’s Net Zero Fund, you can improve the regional environment. Just select “Net Zero Fund” in the “My donation is for” box.
Story by Lisa Curtis, former Director of Development and Community Outreach