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Taking a pledge on the road to sustainability: I can drive 55

After leaving Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Mass., 15 months ago, I reflected deeply on what’s next. Hearing Bill McKibben speak and reading his 2011 book, “Eaarth (no typo): Making A Life On A Tough New Planet,” have inspired me to confront what I believe is the biggest challenge facing us today: reversing global warming and climate change.

My contribution to the climate change movement is a regional and then national grassroots campaign to persuade you and millions of other people to Drive 55 To Survive. I have been traveling at that speed for the past six years and it works well.

Conserving resources is the first step in creating a sustainable planet, and driving slower is a simple action to take. It does not involve buying an expensive hybrid or electric car or attending protests nor engaging in civil disobedience. This action is within everyone’s reach. Join me in slowing down and you will accomplish a lot:

1. Reduce your carbon footprint. Each gallon of gas used produces 19 pounds of CO2. By driving no faster than 55 mph (use cruise control and gradually slow down from 70 to 65 to 60 to 55), you decrease your car’s environmental damage by 15 to 32 percent.

2. Increase the chances your children and grandchildren will live on a sustainable planet.

3. Lower the percentage of CO2 emissions—now 29 percent — that come from vehicles.

4. Save hundreds of dollars annually.

5. Lessen your chance of hitting an animal: Every day more than 1 million creatures are killed on American roads.

Two easy actions you can take:

1. Start Driving 55 today. As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

2. Ask friends, family, colleagues, and local environmental organizations to follow your lead. Leaders are people who are first to act. You will be challenging one of the sacred cows in the climate change debate: Don’t mess with my car. No politician or climate change leader has dared to advocate for it, yet it’s the easiest way for you to make a big difference in saving the planet.

Tom Steyer, passionate climate change activist and former hedge-fund manager, said recently: “In every generation, there is an overwhelming issue that people may not recognize at the time, but that becomes the issue that is the measure of what you did. In World War II, if you look back, everybody was measured by what they did in the 1930s and ’40s. Charles Lindbergh was the biggest hero in the United States of America, and he went wrong on the biggest issue of the day and that was the end of him. Look back to where people came out on civil rights in the ’50s and ’60s: maybe you were right about economic policy then, but, if you blew it on the big issue, then that is the measure.”

Steyer insists that climate change “is the issue we will get measured by as a country and a generation. If we blow this, it will because we were very focused on the short term… and we had no broader sense of what we were trying to do and what we were trying to pass on.”

P.S. If you want to get involved in this campaign, contact me at: drive55tosurvive@gmail.com.

Allen J. Davis, Ed.D., former Executive Director of the Greenfield Community College Foundation, lives in Dublin.

If you are serious about cutting emissions, how about addressing the far more serious issue of the truck/suv culture that has taken hold particularly in North America? I suspect this is far more damaging to environment than the speed you drive. The stats I have seen suggest the average pickup truck consumes somewhere between 44% and 100% more than cars/subcompacts. In 1970 trucks made up about 10% of the auto fleet, now they are over 50%. This is not because we have far more farmers and tradespeople on the road than we did then, it's because we buy them for everyday transportation to the office and shopping mall, because auto makers have convinced us that is what we need, which is a travesty. Europe's auto fleet is almost twice as efficient because they have not allowed the truck culture to take hold/over. We should have disclaimers after every truck ad explaining their higher CO2 emissions like we require for drug ads. I cycle most of the time to try to minimize my emissions, yet can't help but think that it takes just two people who buy a truck rather than a small car to entirely cancel out my emissions savings. (Not to even address the higher level of fatalities and injuries caused by bigger and heavier trucks compared to cars). For heavens sake, if you wish to address our high level of emissions compared to the rest of the world, have the guts to address our entirely unnecessary truck culture that is far more damaging to the atmosphere than how fast we drive.

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