“During the first decade of the twentieth century, a number of experts warned of the environmental consequences of [internal combustion engine]-powered vehicles, including the issues of oil depletion and toxic exhaust,” (Heitmann, 2009).
· Why do Americans still drive cars even though they know about the effects of vehicle exhaust on the environment and human health?
· Should the government step in and try to change the actions of the general public?
· How could a system go about changing such an old societal habit?
· Do you believe that people don’t change their habits because they do not truly understand the consequences of vehicle exhaust?
· Would a PSA campaign help with general knowledge?
What causes air pollution?
Think about the last time you walked down a busy road way; did you notice the car exhaust around you?
· “Today, motor vehicles are responsible for nearly one half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), more than half of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and about half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States. Motor vehicles, including nonroad vehicles, now account for 75 percent of carbon monoxide emissions nationwide.” (EPA, 2010)
· “Air pollution consists of a complex mixture of thousands of chemical compounds,” (Soll-Johanning et al., 1998).
What do you think are the effects of vehicle exhaust?
· “In 2008, transportation sources contributed approximately 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation is also the fastest-growing source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 47 percent of the net increase in total U.S. emissions since 1990, and is the largest end-use source of CO2, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas.” (EPA, 2010)
· “Substantial epidemiological evidence has associated air pollution with mortality and morbidity due to respiratory diseases and cancer,” (Soll-Johanning et al., 1998).
· “Airborn particles, at concentrations that occurred commonly, were associated with daily deaths in Philadelphia,” (Schwartz, 2000).
Why do Americans still drive cars?
· Projjal Dutta, Director of Sustainability for the MTA, infers that Americans have not been connecting the dots between transportation and CO2 emissions. (Delaney et al., 2009).
· “Cars also eliminated the horse manure problem on city streets,” (Heitmann, 2009).
· Urban vs. Suburban vs. Rural
What is being done?
· Clean Buses
· Diesel Engines
o “New, so-called green diesel engines hitting the market now run just as clean as a gas engine, in some cases cleaner,” (Steiner, 2010).
o “Diesel engines…can get as much as 50% more mileage out of a gallon,” compared to a gas engine (Steiner, 2010).
· Better city infrastructure
· Electric cars
· Increased gas prices
o “During 2008, a year when gas prices touched historical highs, Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles than they did the year before,” (Steiner, 2010).
· Similar to the Anti-smoking ads
· “One avenue through changing behavior is through education,” (Boerschig & De Young, 1993).
· “It is true that views of the environment are deeply ingrained in the traditions, customs, and local ancestral culture that form part of people’s routine,” (Simioni, 2004).
Now that you know that scientist in the past expressed concerns about automobiles, does that change the way you view the development of the vehicle?
· “Adjustments [to internal combustion engine vehicles] could have been far more easily made than those that we, in the early twenty-first century, are making now,” (Heitmann, 2009).
Summary of class session (moira)
Kendra began her presentation with a quote from environmental experts who previously predicted that global consequences would arise in the future from the use of engine-powered vehicles. She then discussed the main contributors that cause air pollution, and explained that she chose to focus on cars because they contribute the most to pollution. The conversation continued with the question of whether or not a large or small car had much of an affect on pollution compared to a hybrid or non-hybrid car, and Kendra explained that hybrid cars can make a significant difference in improving the environment. We then discussed the fact that, in general, Americans prefer to drive large cars while Europeans prefer to drive smaller cars, and we briefly questioned why this discrepancy exists. We said that perhaps Americans feel their two children will be safer in a large, bulky car that seats nine people instead of only four? However, Kendra explained that larger cars are more likely to tip over, so they are not necessarily safer than smaller cars.
Then we considered the importance of the automobile/automobile industry to Americans. A student mentioned that there was even a Bryn Mawr class on this topic, called “The Automobile in America”.
Kendra followed up with the question, “Why do we (Americans) have an aversion to public transportation?” Hope said because we’re individualistic, Leah said because some public transportation is poor quality and Sarah said because for some people public transportation is not accessible. Then Kendra went on to explain what is being done to reduce vehicle exhaust. Hope questioned if the government is considering adding a tax to gas like there is an additional tax on cigarettes and alcohol. Kendra explained that there is a tax in Europe on gas. Sarah expressed concern about having a tax added to gas because she explained that cigarettes and alcohol are both substances that people choose to use, while sometimes it is necessary for someone to drive to their destination, and is not necessarily the person's choice. Therefore, a tax on gas would not be fair to those that don’t have the option of public transportation. Finally, we concluded our discussion with whether or not there should be an anti-driving campaign, similar to the anti-smoking ads that are on tv.
Quotes and Implications to Date
“While such steps are certainly better than none, I find it highly unlikely that any significant progress will be made until society as a whole stops thinking about their own individual needs, and instead thinks about the needs of everyone, and how taking public transportation, or carpooling, could make an impact, and forget about their own personal inconveniences.” smaley
“The subway system saves one from driving in traffic, looking for parking, is cheap, runs frequently etc., and helps the environment. No system is perfect and even the best system has its problems…Some places that actually have a fairly workable transportation system (eg. Septa) under utilize it due to expense, cleanliness, dangerousness, etc.” Colette
“Like Sarah said, I think Americans need an attitude adjustment. I think one thing that needs to change is the status of the car in American society. Having a car/ what type of car you drive shouldn't be a status symbol. Who knows, maybe in the future cars will be a symbol of waste and pollution.” lbonnell
“At the same time, I have some sense that there must be forces operating here that are bigger and more pervasive than those mentioned so far. The United States is far from the only location in the world with cities over run by vehicles and vehicle exhaust problems. What accounts for the widespread nature of these problems?” Paul Grobstein
· We need to consider what causes the disconnect between information about air pollution and vehicle use.
· How can scientist get the information across in a way that stresses the importance of the issue to the public?
· Scientist and policy makers need to work together to make policies that benefit the environment and human health.