The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes me more aware than ever about my oil addiction. This relates to my car obviously, but also to all the plastics that come with my lifestyle. I consider myself an environmentally aware person. My feeling on this drilling disaster isn’t outrage, which would seem natural if I wanted to point and blame the oil company, the makers of the faulty cement cap, or the greed of Wall Street that ignores the finite source for this fuel. I could be angry at the politicians who don’t listen to the climate scientists for fear that addressing carbon emissions will mean hardships for industries tied to fossil fuels. But instead, I feel really sad and maybe even scared, that it is us, the consumers, who are responsible for this disaster. We let industry keep miles per gallon low rather than setting a standard for efficiency. We let our politicians be persuaded by deep-pocketed lobbyists who buy votes. We don’t speak up. We don’t purchase wisely. At the grocery stores, it is impossible to buy food without plastic [an oil product]! And when we do speak up, still don’t change our own behaviors. I may drive a Prius with minimal emissions, but I am still at the gas station sucking the non-renewable fuel into my car. This morning in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Tom and Ray Magliozzi [Car Talk brothers] spelled out why each gallon of gas [which weighs 6.5 lbs] equals 20 lbs of CO2. You add air—almost 100 lbs of it for combustion. Air + fuel = 20 lbs of CO2/gallon. Now I have a carbon cost per tank of gas, which luckily for me is only 10 gallons/2 weeks driving. The average person drives about 3,000 miles to and from work every year. Not driving just one day a week can reduce CO2 emissions by about 8 pounds per week. That adds up to about 400 pounds of CO2 per year. The less you drive, the more you’ll save, according to Greener Choices Organization [http://www.greenerchoices.org/energysavingonroad.cfm].
I have not found MY way to get back to public transportation this summer. I signed up for RideFinders. This is a great organization that links drivers and schedules so that fewer cars are on the roads. And yet, I haven’t called to match with anyone. Every match for my schedule provided by the organization is off by 2 hours. Metro riders can also find wait time between buses and trains. We want convenience, privacy and we want life the way it is comfortable. What is it going to take to change? Environmental Psychologist, Doug McKensie-Mohr Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) shares research at his insightful website, Fostering Sustainable Behavior [http://www.cbsm.com]. He says awareness and desire are not enough to change behavior. He believes that it takes a social network. When we share and encourage each other to reach our values, change happens. I feel almost embarrassed that I don’t role-model in this critical area. As a college, we have to work on commuting to address our carbon footprint. It is 2/3rd of our footprint beyond what we consume from Ameren and Laclede. So this year, Florissant Valley and Meramec campuses will address transportation head on due to the President’s Climate Commitment. I am one who struggles, but maybe adding the numbers of others who also want to make a difference will bring the social support I need to lower my commuting carbon responsibility. I see hope when eager members of our green community come and take small steps together. In the gentle spirit of my colleagues, I am certain I will take my next step to make a difference.