Commentary

Mobility is a Climate Variable

Ron Martino discusses how transportation negatively affects our climate

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

In 2017, the transportation sector contributed 29% of greenhouse gases across the country. Greenhouse gases come from passenger cars, freight and home delivery trucks, trains, buses, and airplane travel.

“How can American society reconcile people’s seemingly boundless love affair with their vehicles with the need to reduce carbon emissions?” says Bruce Lieberman writing in “Yale Climate Connections”.

Getting a grip on climate change means we need to get a grip on our transportation choices. We have many tools to manage a change to less polluting transportation but a lot of it is yet ‘disconnected’. To do the right thing, do good and get a return on needed investment, we’ll need to become proactive and knit together the whole of our transportation infrastructure. Some of what it will take is changing our personal habits.

First some things are obvious. Driving less by planning trips better or choosing hybrid work from home options are good. Deploying electric vehicles is a good tool to control emissions, but that takes community wide infrastructure like building out networks of charging stations. That might include helping locally owned gas stations to make successful transitions to other business models and uses. Using other means than cars to go places can be a big help like choosing to take a fuel-efficient bus or walk or bike.

Locally we are fortunate to have the Merrimack Valley Transit Authority buses, formerly known as the MVRTA now rebranded as “MeVa”. The name stands for Merrimack Valley but also has Hispanic linguistic echoes of ‘going’. The new buses are becoming more and more climate neutral, and they charge nothing. They are free. In Amesbury, Mayor Kassandra Gove has recently worked with MeVa to move some stops around based on local knowledge of what works best for people walking to the bus stops. This is a good example of connecting their community transportation network more effectively.

Maybe plan a bus little adventure with friends to Amesbury to a brewpub to discover the local bus routes? Or head to Lawrence for real Italian cookies at Fisichelli’s on Union Street or Tripoli’s on Common Street. Have fun on the way and have fun when you get there.

Walking more is good for you and good for our climate. Strolling around the network of the Coastal Trails Coalition’s trails or The Trustees or Essex County Greenbelt properties is an excellent option. Ask yourself why not walk instead of driving to a coffee shop or to get a haircut. Maybe a supermarket is close enough for you to walk but one big shopping a week is too much to carry home. Why not consider walking two or three times a week and bring along one of those little folding grocery carts with a pull handle. Or maybe sign up for one of their home delivery options and not walk at all. This is a reasonable climate option because the delivery trucks plan efficient routes and are using electric vans for delivery more and more.

A solution to our transportation climate problems might just involve a bit of new zoning that encourages neighborhood business and safe, well-lit sidewalks that allow us to walk or bike to safely. ACES ally Newburyport Livable Streets advocates and educates the public on these issues and Mayor Reardon of Newburyport has a plan focused ran on a fix the streets agenda. Why not take the opportunity to make your mobility choices pro-climate and walk, bike, and take a bus more often more consciously? Why not make new transportation adventures an opportunity to develop your own little climate game and help the environment?

A resident of Newburyport, Ron Martino is an ACES advisor/mentor and member of the communications team.

This column was coordinated by ACES youth corps member Ana Satir. To share any comments or questions, please send an email to acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

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about the author
Ron Martino

After a career in Marketing for science and high tech based corporations, Ron is a member of the Marketing Communications Team of the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards (ACES) where he often focuses on our communication strategies both in traditional and social media.

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