What are we willing to do?

By Joe Rector

Predictions for the fate of the world are dire. According to scientists on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the temperature will rise 2.7 degrees by 2030, and that can lead to catastrophic floods, droughts, wild fires, and food shortages throughout the world. Most of those things already occur in our country. We’ve witnessed unprecedented hurricanes, downpours of rain, and fires.

The simple sounding solution to the problem requires that all of us drastically reduce carbon emissions. The difficulty with that is most folks love their cars too much to give them up, and they don’t want to give up the convenience of throw away packaging made of plastics. Our immediate comfort is more important than keeping this planet in a state that will sustain life.

I remember the past and don’t want to go back to it. However, we might learn a couple of things from that simpler life. The first deals with recycling. Yes, that activity has been going on for a long time. These days, we throw plastic containers in recycling bins, and the materials are re-used to produce other items. That is a logical step since it takes approximately 450 years for a plastic bottle to completely degrade.

In an earlier time, most bottles were made with glass. The price charged for soft drinks included a deposit on every bottle. We boys used to walk the ditches on Ball Camp Pike in search of ones that had been tossed from passing cars. We’d return them to the store down the road and collect a few cents with which we bought candy or bubble gum.

A huge dent could be made in the garbage that is produced if companies returned to the use of glass bottles and deposits on them. In 2010, 25.7 billion cases of Coca-Cola were produced. Just think of the amount of energy demanded to produce the plastic bottles for even a fraction of them, and think of how many bottles have been discarded in dumps where they will exist for the next four centuries. Returning glass containers makes more sense in the overall scheme of things.

Energy demands increase yearly. Our thirst for electricity to run appliances, televisions, and chargers requires plants to release more pollutants into the atmosphere. Not so long ago, air conditioning was a luxury that few homes had. Now, we all have it and rarely leave its comfort. I’m not necessarily calling for a return to electric fans and open windows, although both could be used during spring and fall seasons. Instead, I suggest that folks adjust the thermostat. Instead of keeping the house a bone-chilling 68 degrees in the summer, a family might turn the temperature to 70 or even 72. In winters, the reverse would hold true— 68 degrees instead of 72. The savings for the consumer would be substantial, and the amount of life-killing carbon dioxide would be cut.

If we are to survive, one thing holds true: we must develop vehicles that run on something other than gas. Many electric cars already travel the highways. Our citizens must demand that manufacturers produce these vehicles so that they can travel longer distances. Yes, we might also insist that those electric cars have more appealing body styles.

The average passenger vehicle coughs out 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Multiply that by millions of cars we in the U.S. own, and some idea of the problem comes into view. We are choking ourselves, other animals, and plants to death with our cars. Car manufacturers, like cigarette companies, have addicted us to gas-guzzling vehicles, and deciding to rid ourselves of them will be an enormous problem. However, the alternative is that in the near future, our lives will become miserable as all sorts of disasters befall us.

If the threats that are predicted are real, the time is short to make even a modest change to the ensuing disaster. Let’s hope every person and every business heeds the warnings and makes a concerted effort to help the planet, and life on it, survive. The real question is what are we willing to do?

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