Ethel White: Automobiles, trees and the climate crisis

Automobiles and trees. These are two of the most important components in the struggle against climate change. Trees clean the air by pulling from it and storing the carbon. As for automobiles, the EPA estimates that cars and trucks account for 43 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in Massachusetts. So trees take carbon out of the air; automobiles put it back.

Yet here in the Valley we cut trees in order to erect solar farms. Why would we do this, when roofs and parking lots abound and are far more appropriate places for solar panels? We can look at UMass for a successful example.

Nor should we use precious farmland for solar arrays, given an ever-increasing world population and the desertification of land suitable for farming. Moreover, the increase in rainfall in New England suggests that we will need other sources of renewable energy besides solar.

When I moved here four years ago I was stunned by the traffic congestion, at all hours of the day, in these small and lovely towns. The electric car is slow to be perfected, and, although it will help reduce air pollution it will not tame congestion and the need for asphalt, with its own environmental problems, to support it.

A crucial part of the answer to the emissions problem is a major investment in a sound and efficient public transportation system. Because we no longer have the tracks, we need rubber tire trolleys between the towns and smaller jitneys within, lots of them, and both powered by renewable energy sources. Transit must be safe, comfortable, and convenient, or people will not ride it. And, while bike paths are helpful, they will not do the job of reducing dependence on the automobile by themselves.

This will be hard and it will be expensive, but the climate crisis is upon us. If we do not take immediate steps, no one wins. Automobiles and trees.

Ethel S. White
Easthampton

Author: Going Green

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