Earth Day: Drive Less, Feel Better
April 23, 2015
April 22 is Earth Day, first established in 1970—the year I was born. It was a different time. In the years that followed, Americans grew less tolerant of litterbugs. Leaded gas was phased out. The Environmental Protection Agency (proposed and signed into law by none other than Richard Nixon) made great strides in improving air and water quality.
Today, the conversation has become more contentious, the stakes much bigger. Fourteen of the hottest years on record have occurred in the past fifteen years. California’s drought is just one instance in a skyrocketing list of record-shattering weather. And yet, despite scientific consensus, public attitudes about climate change have become as polarized and intractable as our politics. And maybe those who used to be concerned have given in to climate-anxiety fatigue. Americans say they are less worried now than they were 14 years ago. For the rest of us increasingly concerned about the future, it’s hard not to despair.
For me, the best antidote for worry is action. So I pitched an idea at our office aimed at reducing the number of cars on the road.
Like all tenants in our building, Wallrich pays $100 per person per month for parking passes. That’s $1,200 a year, folks. So we offered our employees a deal. Give up your parking pass. Bike or carpool to work and keep half the savings. The balance is available for expense reimbursement on days when you absolutely need to pay for parking or a ride.
So far, about a fifth of us have turned in our parking passes. We walk or bike in. Is this going to change the global climate? No. But it helps shape attitudes on a grassroots level, which is what’s really needed for bigger change. Even those who can’t avoid the car commute are adjusting. One of them even got an electric car. So maybe this tiny little movement will catch on. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but at least we’ll get their on our own terms.