Dorian, Faxai and Piet, Jan & Kitty: I’ll take the train
by Eduard Schaepman, on 11 Sep 2019
I have followed the reports about Hurricane Dorian and typhoon Faxai. Families have fled and been torn apart, houses have been destroyed, the power is down: hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives turned upside down. It is hard to imagine the chaos and fear that such natural disasters bring with them, but for Americans it is almost an annual affair. The hurricane season begins every year, and the inhabitants usually know how to prepare themselves properly. But Dorian was the second heaviest Atlantic hurricane ever measured, with speeds of up to 295 kilometers per hour, and I'm afraid that's a direct result of how we deal with our planet.
The extreme weather that we’ve had in the Netherlands might also be a direct result of our actions. About 100 years ago, such temperatures were unthinkable in our small country. Today, we have air conditioners at home, which need to get us through the next summer (when we’ll have more heat waves without a doubt). As a result: more consumption of energy and CO2 emissions (those air conditioners need to come from somewhere).
In Greenland the sled dogs don't plough over the usual thick slice of ice, but through a layer of melt water, and also from Antartica, Iceland and Canada there were disturbing reports about melting ice caps. Wineries are picking their grapes more and more often in August, instead of in the traditional harvest month of September, and rare animal species are threatened with extinction by the drought and I could go on like this for a while. Nature's cry for help is getting louder and louder, and it's up to us to listen to it carefully.
Of course, that message also sounded years ago, and we've known for a long time that it's better not to run the air conditioning all day, to switch off the heating every now and then, to separate plastic and to leave the car more often. But we realize the importance now. Back then, it was a hype; many people participated because it's good for the environment, but we didn't see the need for it yet. In 2012, for example, I took part in the Low Car Diet for the first time; a mobility competition in which you travel as sustainably as possible for a month.
I thought that was a great opportunity to break through our rusted work and travel routines: why would you work from 9 to 5, when you also have the opportunity not to be in a traffic jam or overcrowded train? Something I had been working on for at least 2 years; to spread the message of 'Work your Way'. A nice side effect was of course the sustainable aspect, but to be fair, for me that wasn't the most important motivation to take part.
In 2014 I repeated that month and used shared cars, buses, trams and trains again. But still my main motivation was not to reduce CO2 emissions, but to spread my Work Your Way message. No, I didn't realize that until 2016, when I visited the Kyrgyz and saw the impact of climate change with my own eyes. Since then, Tribes have become permanent partner of UitdefileaanhetWerk, with the pure aim of getting people out of those CO2-blowing vehicles.
Now you hear more and more about climate change: what else would be the cause of those hot days, Dorian, Faxai, the melting ice, the early harvest, the drought and so on? The awareness of the impact of our actions is finally coming, and I hope we are not too late.
But now I'm back on the Low Car Diet, and I'm not only driving sustainably (as I always do), but I'm also promoting sustainability by traveling in shared cars, by bike or by train. This time not to stimulate Work your Way, but to keep the damn climate in check before Piet, Jan and Kitty get a speed of 295 kilometers per hour.