Sunday, June 19, 2011

Environmentalist for fare free public transport to cut oil consumption

Digital Journal 17 June 2011

An interview with an environmentalist and anti-deep sea drilling campaigner in the run-up to the second Hands Across The Sand in London on June 25.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster was one the greatest man-made catastrophes of the past fifty years – was and is – we still don’t know the full and ongoing effects it will have on the flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast and beyond, and even on the Gulf Stream. The eco-movement is nothing new of course, but a branch of that movement – if it may be called that – which is specifically anti-oil – is making headway in the US and in many other countries. On June 25, Hands Across The Sand is mounting its second annual event. One person who has a professional as well as a personal interest in this event and what it stands for, is Maura Flynn, an American marine biologist currently living in London. Here she is in her own words.

AB: How long have you been involved in the anti-oil campaign?
MF: Bit of an odd story. I graduated university with a degree in marine biology right into the recession. I’ve had seasonal or grant jobs here and there, but it’s been hard to find work in a field that’s been suffering from budget cuts and threats of research defunding. In March of last year, out of fears that I was becoming unfamiliar with the current events in my field, I created a blog that aggregated news articles from various places around the web with topics like marine conservation, fisheries and endangered marine species. Not even a month later, the Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred. The news was flooded with articles about the Gulf of Mexico, the marine species that would be affected by the spill, the fisheries in the area and the impacts on the marine environment. It became the topic that I wrote about the most, and through researching the articles I came across events like Hands Across the Sand.
AB: Did you take part in the last Hands Across The Sand?
MF: Yes. Last year the event received a lot of attention after Deepwater Horizon. I actually heard about Hands Across The Sand from a former university classmate of mine back in the United States, and I was very pleased to find that there was an event happening here in London as well, which I'm helping to organise.
AB: Was that organised in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster or is it something that was in the wind long before that?
MF: Hands Across The Sand originated in Florida before Deepwater Horizon as a movement against the efforts of the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on near and offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coast. Deepwater Horizon drew considerable attention to the problems of offshore oil drilling, and the event took off nationally and globally from there. Last year, events took place in all 50 states and in 43 countries worldwide.
AB: What do you hope to achieved by this...protest is not the right word, but I hate to call it a publicity stunt. Action?
MF: I would call it a demonstration. My main goal is to spread awareness of the issue of offshore oil drilling and dirty fossil fuel use versus clean energy sources such as wind and solar power. Personally, I think the environmental movement has sort of a bad reputation at the moment. Oftentimes when I mention an environmental topic I’m interested in or that I’m writing about, people assume I’m some kind of “tree-hugging hippie” or a PETA member who throws blood on people. I feel like these are the two stereotypes thought of when someone thinks “environmentalist.” But really this event is just to show that normal people care about the environment too. I believe most people want to do the right thing; it’s just a matter of bringing the issue to everyone’s attention. We all want clean air, clean water, safe food resources and to pass on a good future to those who come after us. The continued use of fossil fuels and dirty energy is jeopardizing that. This demonstration is a simple way people can come together to say it’s time to move towards a cleaner energy future.
AB: Are you opposed to all drilling for oil, just drilling in the sea, or deep sea drilling?
MF: I’m not a fan of any drilling – or any activity for that matter – that degrades the environment. I am particularly opposed to drilling in the sea or in coastal areas due to the potential magnitude of a spill event. Water will carry oil to places we might not even be able to find…And then how are we to fix it? I know we can’t all stop using oil tomorrow and switch entirely to more environmentally-friendly energy sources, but I do think it’s way past time to be taking a closer look at alternative energy and investing more time and money into its research and development.
AB: What do you think are the alternatives to oil: how can we reduce consumption of oil, etc? MF: The easy answer is to use public transport and to drive less, but there’s so much more than that. Plastic production is a huge consumer of oil, so minimizing the plastic products you purchase is a great step. This includes the obvious such as bottled water and plastic shopping bags, but also things like kitchen gadgets, child’s toys and certain types of clothing. I’m not saying you can’t buy these things, but consider the materials the products you buy are made of, and perhaps move towards items made from recycled glass, sustainably sourced wood or organic cotton. Another thing is to lower your “food miles”. London has some wonderful farmers’ markets, so consider buying your groceries locally instead of at Sainsbury’s, where many products are flown in from other countries. You can also try to eat lower on the food chain – that is, eat less meat and animal products. It takes far more resources to produce a pound of beef than it does to produce a pound of veg. Why not start with introducing one or two “vegetarian days” into your week? Perhaps most importantly, take a moment to write your representatives in the government and tell them how you feel about your country’s oil usage and that it’s time for a change.
AB: What is your view of synthetic oil and other alternatives?
MF: At the moment I don’t know very much about this, but it is a topic I’m looking in to. I know there is currently a debate about biofuels like corn oil because it’s taking food resources that hungry people could benefit from and using them to power luxury items like cars.
AB: How do you feel about a totally fare-free public transport system and similar measures to reduce oil consumption?
MF: I have to say, as an American from a small town where everyone has cars coming to a big city like London with multiple public transport systems…I love it! Everything is so easy to get to, and there’s never any traffic. On top of that, I’m a fan of public transport because it lessens the number of cars on the road. If you know a bus or train is already going to your desired destination, why not just hop on and save yourself the frustration of traffic and tolls? Making it fare-free would just sweeten the deal.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Leave the car in the garage - could save you $10,000 a year

Pocatello Transit Wants You To Dump The Pump

POSTED: 4:47 pm MDT June 16, 2011

Transit officials want locals in Pocatello to dump the pump and, in the process, save a little cash.

Thursday is national Dump the Pump Day, and Pocatello Regional Transit is hoping to entice more people to take the bus instead of their car.The PRT has begun handing out small flyers, and will continue through the week.

They give the holder a full free month on Pocatello public transportation.Transit officials said if you haven't considered taking the bus in Pocatello recently, look again. Routes have been expanded and schedules improved.

They said if you can take advantage of public transport enough to get a rid of a car, it'll save the average family about $10,000 a year.

...hey - this public transport thing might be the way to go!

Free Rides In Honor of Dump the Pump Day

on Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Today is the sixth annual National Dump the Pump Day, a day meant not only to raise awareness of our dependence on foreign oil, but also to remind us of the benefits of public transportation. We all understand that public transit reduces congestion, but did you know that transit use in the United States saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline each year and that every dollar invested in transit generates about $4 in economic returns? These are just a few of the benefits the American Public Transportation Association is highlighting this year. APTA is also encouraging transit agencies across the country to offer free rides.

IndyGo of Indianapolis, where transit ridership is up 13.6 percent over May 2010, is offering free rides today on all lines except their downtown/airport express line. Dump the Pump Day couldn’t come at a better time for Indianapollis, where the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority and transit advocates are trying to persuade the Hoosier State’s GOP-heavy legislature to put a new tax for rail on the 2012 ballot.

LexTran, the transit agency in Lexington, Kentucky, is unveiling its new hybrid buses in addition to offering free rides. Space Coast Area Transit in Brevard County, Florida, is offering free rides too, but riders have to go online and print a ticket.

Offering free rides might be a way to attract riders who are on the fence about riding transit for everyday trips, but one can’t help but wonder what’s the long term impact of an initiative like Dump the Pump. Sure, raising awareness is important, but it seems like the only way to really increase transit ridership is to hit drivers in the wallet.

...aren't drivers are being "hit in the wallet" already with rocketting fuel costs? It's time to cut the red tape and penalties - limited free transit days are a good promotion, but permanent city-wide, free & frequent modern public transport is the way to get commuters out of our cars, increase mobility and cut car pollution, traffic congestion, road accidents and wasting precious fossil fuels - big time. Ed.