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Signs of progress

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  • J.H. Crawford
    more signs of progress: small-town newspapers urging observance of carfree day http://www.helenair.com/articles/2007/09/13/opinions/a040913_02.txt Make Sept.
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2007
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      more signs of progress: small-town newspapers urging observance of carfree day


      Make Sept. 22 a car-free day

      By Jonathan Matthews - Your Turn - 09/13/07

      Longtime residents of Helena know that global warming is a reality.

      Winters are warmer and shorter than they used to be. Summers are hotter. The 6 ¾ billion people on our planet (twice as many as there were in 1965), each burning fossil fuels, are releasing the carbon dioxide that is responsible for the dramatic rise in global temperatures.

      We, in Helena, can begin implementing a solution, individually and as a community, without waiting for our national government to address the problem. Each one of us is responsible. And each one of us can be part of the solution.

      Helena’s residents taking action will make a difference. Each gallon of gasoline burned spews 20 pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air (5.5 pounds of carbon combining with oxygen on combustion). For the typical vehicle, that’s about a pound of carbon dioxide per mile driven. Imagine how many thousands of pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide could be kept out of our planet’s air if a large percentage of Helena’s residents decided not to use our cars at all on one day.

      Please consider taking this positive action ­ not using your car for a day ­ on Sept. 22. That is International Car Free Day, as it has been each of the past seven years.

      In hundreds of cities across America and around the world, individuals like you are leaving their cars at home. They are walking, biking, or taking public transit as a personal, positive step they can take to address a problem that many scientists believe will be the most serious challenge humanity has ever faced.

      It is time for the people ­ you and me ­ to lead the way to the solution to the escalating crisis of global warming.

      The United States, with one car per driving-age citizen, releases more carbon dioxide into our planet’s atmosphere than any other nation. I was raised to take personal responsibility for any damage that my actions cause. When I sent a baseball through my neighbor’s window, I knocked on the door, apologized for what I did, and then raided my piggy bank for the money to fix it. I didn’t care if 100 other kids sent baseballs through windows and then ran and hid. I bet that you were also raised to stand up and do the right thing. Well, through no evil intentions (we were just playing ball), we have been breaking the Earth. We had no idea. But now we know, so what are we going to do?

      While I hope you will join me in not using your car on Sept. 22, I hope you will also think about ways to use your car less on other days. There are many short trips that we jump in our cars to do that we could do by foot or by bike. I live 1 ½ miles from where I work, and I find that it is actually enjoyable to walk or bike this distance, in any weather (slip-on shoe cleats, studded bike tires, and appropriate clothing make it possible all year). I save a lot of money on gas and car wear. I arrive at work energized and then, after work, I unwind on the way home. Sitting in rush-hour traffic is not fun or good for our health or our planet’s health. Walking and biking for short trips works on all levels. When we begin thinking this way, we start to figure out how little we can use our cars. We combine several errands into one car trip. We find one or more days each week when we don’t have to use our cars. We start losing weight, we have more energy, we sleep better, we have more money, we save the planet. What’s not to like?

      For more information, visit the Web site www.car-free-days.org.

      Jonathan Matthews is a member of Helena’s Flowing Mountains Sangha and the Helena Area Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, both of which encourage you to observe Car Free Day on Sept. 22.

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      J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
      mailbox@... http://www.carfree.com
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