What to do with # 5: Transport
First hand experiences from a megacity, Quito
October 28, 2013
Last week I was, yes again, in Quito, Ecuador. Like I have said in my previous blog about this city (see What to do with #1: Waste and Poo), it deals with a lot of waste. But not only that: it also deals with transport issues, like traffic jams and pollution. And in addition, flying over there has also to do with a certain kind of transport, meaning, aviation. Therefore, here a blog in the catogory of 'What to do with # 5: Transport'.
First of all, I flew into Quito. Flying is for me a torture becuase I know the big environmental impact of it. Indeed, flying is the most polluting way of transportation. As Wikipedia argues 'The environmental impact of aviation occurs because aircraft engines emit noise, and particulates and gases which contribute to climate change and global dimming. Despite emission reductions from automobiles and more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years contributes to an increase in total pollution attributable to aviation'1. The discussions about including aviation into the carbon market is ongoing, and will also continue in the next climate change negotiations in November 2013. Furthermore, there have already been planes running on biodiesel and solar panels. Some public airplanes run on this biodiesel, however those on solar panels are not (yet) suitable for the public. More and more websites and touroperators provide the opportunity to mitigate the flying footprint by donating money to a certain environmental project, like tree plantation (trees can absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air).
Secondly, in Quito, more and more cars are on the road. This creates huge traffic jams during the whole day, but off cours especially during 'hot' hours like from 8 to around 9:30 and from 16:30 to around 18:30. The cars are often old or very polluting, which creates a lot of air pollution and therefore contributing to climate change, smog, health and the pollution of the local environment in general.
Thirdly, there is public transportation in Quito. However, this is definetly not so awesome as it may seem. The buses are old and very dirty, contributing, again, to smog, climate change, health and the pollution of the local environment in general. I often walk on the street and am very careful when a bus drives by: I emidiatly put my jacket, scarf, or whatever is at hand, onto my mouth and nose to avoid a little bit of the smog those buses emit. It's is trully horrible.
These problems are not only related to Quito. You find it very often in big cities, and not only in developing countries. Indeed, Milan, a city in Italy, also deals with a lot of smog and small particles, especially in the summer. And in addition, here in The Hague, we have a street which is the most polluted in the Netherlands. I had to bike over it when I was living in another place. I trully felt polluted myself when having gone through it! However, cars in Europe become more and more environmentally friendly. For instance, there are already many electric cars, as well as cars running on biodiesel (without competing with food). In addition, in Europe in general, public transportation can exist of cleaner (biodiesel, gas or electric) buses and there are trains at hand.
So what can be done about it to reduce the environmental effects as much as possible by government, companies and citizens?
The government should invest in better public transportation and the carbon market should include aviation. Companies, organizations, and universities should invest in better and less polluting transportation ways. Citizens can do the following: as far as flying goes, you can try to use public transport as much as possible. At least in Europe, that is quite possible: train and buses are at hand. Yet, you can also wonder about the effect of train and buslanes on the local environment, deforestation, and the like. When you have no other option, or when the public transportation option is too expensive and/or takes too long, you can fly while compensating your flight. When having to choose between car and public transport, certain issues come on the surface. You will have to wage conviencence, speed, indepencence, and freedom with environmental benefits and/or distruction. Some would feel more for a (clean) car, others more for a train or bus due to the possibility to work while being transported from one place to another.
So, in short, what you can do is:
Be creative and use as much public tranport as possible. You may meet interesting people on the journey.
On an adventure? Try hitchhiking.
Compensate your footprint, and do that not only related to transport.
For work: try to make use of Skype, video conferencing, and other things as much as possible to avoid flying or so to meet in person. Usually, the first meeting can best be done face to face, but the follow up can be done online.
Any creative ideas? Feel free to share them here.
1Wikipedia, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_aviation