Thursday, July 10, 2008

Speed limits

A commenter recently questioned whether the upcoming generations are really apathetic and claimed that I'm in a location where people really don't care, but elsewhere it is growing trend. That could be true, there are signs as you enter Utah that read, "Welcome to Utah, please set your watches back 20 years and 10 minutes". Anyway, I don't doubt that there are differences depending on locale, but I want to take this point a little further.

I want to take speed limits as an example. There is currently a movement by some to reduce the speed limit to 55 mph in order to reduce gas consumption and vehicular emissions. I think it's a great idea, reducing the speed limit may reduce the speed of drivers a little, but it would certainly increase the size of the ticket for the select few who were actually pulled over for exceeding the speed limit.

Here's the thing, it is currently not illegal to drive 55 on highways. I am unaware of studies on the safety of it, but I could see potential hazards. Here's the point that I want to make. We are debating a reduced speed limit when everyone on the road has the option of reducing their speed, saving money and reducing their CO2 output by slowing down. Why do we have to change the law for that to happen? I drive 55 on the highway, I accelerate very slowly and I make sure that I never leave my car idleing. I would guess that I get ~30% better gas mileage than someone who excedes the speed limit, accelerates quickly and spends a lot of time idling in the same car.

I hear people complain about gas prices, but I hear those same people complaining about the 'idiot' who drives the speed limit in the fast lane (suggesting that they are generally exceding the speed limit). I hear almost everyone complaining about gas prices, yet on the corner where I live, almost everyone accelerates quickly, even when there's no traffic coming. I see lines of people waiting in drive thrus, all with their engines idling. When are we going to take personal responsibility for the amount we are paying for gas rather than asking for the government to impose regulations? The pedal on the left is the brake, it is not illegal to use it.

I see similar things with recycling. Sure, recycling is becoming more popular. I think that's great, but do you know what would be better? It would be better if consumers would demand products with less packaging so the stuff that we currently recycle never had to be produced in the first place.

The apathy that I see, may not be apathy, but rather a lack of initiative. Rather than making the environment into a personal matter, we are waiting for the government, or for our place of employment to act. The government and businesses are waiting for it to be financially adventageous. Do you know what makes items with little packaging financially advantageous for the producer? CONSUMERS THAT WON'T BUY STUFF WITH LOTS OF PACKAGING. It's the individual choices that change the world, and upcoming generations (and by that I mean people under 40)aren't taking the initiative to improve the world we are inherritting.


John said...

Being 16, I can't do much more than what I am already doing. I ride the bus to school, I don't drive, I don't buy much stuff, and my dear parents have hammered into me the habit if conservation. While most of this is not actively trying to be environmentally friendly rather a force of habit, it makes you wonder how much less the world would consume if we all lived like this. Not going to extremes, just conserving. I am not saying that people who go out and actively conserve such as sans and my sister shouldn't be doing it, it is a great thing that they are doing. I am just saying that if everyone lived half conservatively out of force of habit, we could save millions of dollars as a nation, if not more. And of course I am not blaming my generation for being so oblivious to the environmental crisis, or the economical state of our nation. Until the past few yaers, I didn't even pay attention to those things, and my parents are always discussing the matters of the nation and world at our dinner table, so it is nobodies fault. As a people, we have all become almost ignorant to the situations of other countries, even of our own in some cases. the blame lies within all of us. I don't think anybody on this earth can honestly say that ever since they were a kid, they have always done whatever they can to minimize their impact on the earth. To do that, you would literaly have to live in the middle of the woods, and live off the land completely. There may be one or two people in the world who do that, but I think that we could all do a little better. Now, I don't expect that I will be able to change anything. I am only 16. But I take comfort in knowing that every day, without even thinking about it, I am doing something to decrease the size of my environmental footprint, all out of force of habit.

The Woulfes said...

I know what you mean. Here in Philly, it's really easy to not drive, buy local meat and produce, and purchase goods that are made in America. (It's definitely a lot harder in rural areas where everythig is spread out and Wal-Mart is the only shopping option)

However, the only people i know who don't drive, do so becasue they can't afford a car. Most of my wife's coworkers drive from their home into downtown(about a mile)despite access to public transit. The speed limits on roads are more like minimum speed suggestions, and less then 25% of the population takes advantage of the city recycling program.

Beyond that, it's definitely going to take more then expensive gas to change the cultural mindset in our country that makes the car the center of our lives and that bigger/more is better. I remember a sociology experiment from a course i took a few years back that showed that the average consumer, presented with two identical products, one in minimal packaging and one in typical packaging that you see in stores (tons of plastic, etc that made the product look much larger then it is) the consumer almost always chose the product with more packagaing as it appeared "more substantial"

Alisha said...

i suggest reading, "shopping our way to safety" by Andrew Szasz. just to warn you, though, he advocates doing a LOT more than changing our purchasing habits to change the world. in fact, he kinda laughs at it. but it is a very interesting read.

good post.