Every morning I wake up, get dressed, and pack my 40-pound school bag. Then I get in my car and drive about one mile over back roads from the South Campus apartments to the School of Music. During those four minutes, I fight some intense feelings of guilt.Every year, more and more greenhouse gasses, which include carbon dioxide, methane nitrous oxide, and many other gasses, are emitted into the atmosphere, the end result being some drastic changes in climate. We’ve all seen the pictures, read the stories, and listened to Al Gore’s take on the melting ice caps. Even more convincing, I think, are the stories highlighting some of the “side-effects” of global warming, like the startling statistics of polar bears drowning before they can reach the next chunk of ice These animals are are made to swim long distances.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “the Fourth U.S. Climate Action Report concluded, in assessing current trends, that carbon dioxide emissions increased by 20 percent from 1990-2004.” It’s really no wonder, though, considering the fact that American society was built around the automobile (which produces an obscene amount of carbon dioxide) and the highway. Our sprawling cities and suburbs are scattered all over, requiring us to use motor vehicles to get from one place to another. How sad to realize that, every day, we do nothing but poison the Earth with pollution and greenhouse gases. What makes this even worse, though, is that in the end we’re hurting ourselves, too; we have to breathe in the smog, we have to adapt our lifestyles to the changing climate, and we have to deal with the pollution, garbage, and damage that transportation causes. If you love the Jersey shore, consider its fate if we do not change our ways soon and the ice caps do indded melt.
It’s time for us to start making changes. There are 13,000 students at WCU; if every one of us can commit to even a small change, we can be responsible for a large part of the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the West Chester Borough and the surrounding area. This means we have to work, though. We have to make new forms of transportation work for us.
We need to make a call for better public transportation. This includes SEPTA, which is often unreliable out here in the suburbs. More importantly, WCU needs to look at its own bus system and make it more convenient for students. Busses must start running on schedule, so that students no longer fear being late to class if they wait for a bus. And the university needs to add a direct line from South Campus to East Campus, which would prevent a large portion of the School of Music students from driving the same mile that I do every day.
We need to commit to walking and riding bikes more, to making visible changes in the way we travel. Certainly any short trip can be completed by walking or riding a bike, as long as you give yourself the time to do so. In addition to causing no harm to the planet, these transportation problems have the added benefits of alleviating the headaches that come with trying to park a car on campus or in the Borough, and they help you to get fit and healthy without even putting extra effort into it.
Finally, we need to consider the benefits of communityprograms like Philly Car Share. Philly Car Share allows members to register online and receive an electronic key fob. Then, whenever members need a car, they can just reserve the type of car they need, and go pick it up fro the nearest pod. Members are charged only for the hours they use the car; Philly Car Share covers insurance and provides gas cards for members to use as needed. The program allows for a car-free lifestyle, in that members no longer need to own their own cars. Members will only use the cars when they really need to, so there are fewer cars on the road. Additionally, Philly Car Share alleviates parking problems (because there are fewer cars in the area, and because the Car Share vehicles have designated pods in which to park) and makes traveling easier on your wallet.
Today at WCU, there are many efforts at work to change the way we travel, including a trial-run of a bike-share program, consideration of a better carpool network, and two different efforts at proposing a partnership with Philly Car Share. It is now your job to support these efforts, and to commit to making a change, even if it’s only a small one. I will commit to driving my car to the School of Music less often. What will you do to help?
Ariana Tullai is a senior majoring in Music education with a minor in Music history. She can be reached at AT599506@wcupa.edu.