Fearless Peggy Shepard, On Time and Water, & vanishing transit commuters

The newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate.

(source: WE ACT)

Issue No. 71

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate. 

During Women’s History Month, we will honor the trailblazers who helped shape the climate movement.

Peggy Shepard, environmental justice trailblazer


Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has been fighting for a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in Northern Manhattan since 1988.

Because many of the most polluted areas in the U.S. are where people of color live, work, play and pray, WE ACT pushes for community-driven political change and equitable policies that directly affect communities that have been neglected.

Shepard is a national leader in advancing environmental policy, serving on the executive committee of the National Black Environmental Justice Network. In 2020 she became the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She is also a trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Waterfront Alliance. Learn more about her incredible story.

We’ll keep you posted on the latest carbon policy and market insights as they happen. 

If you have an opinion on any topic covered in this newsletter, please feel free to send me an email at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com. 

Thank you for your viewpoint and the value of your time.

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QUOTES

Climate quotes and sayings that will inspire you

1 “Climate change is real. I recognize that the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States is the transportation sector. Thankfully, that means that the transportation sector gets to be the biggest part of the solution.” ~ Pete Buttigieg

(source: US Department of Transportation)

Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, urging Congress to make a “generational investment” to improve the nation’s transit and water systems and address climate change and racial inequities, laying the groundwork for sweeping infrastructure proposals.

2 “Words are like spears: Once they leave your lips they can never come back.” ~Yoruba Proverb

Reflection: How many times have you said something, then wished you could take it back?

3 “Society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.” ~ John Sawhill

Credo: Putting conservation on par with innovation - do you see things that way?


BOOKS

(source: Amazon)

On Time and Water

Written by Andri Snær Magnason

Andri Snær Magnason, the Icelandic writer and poet famous for writing a memorial to a dying glacier, has spent the last decade searching for the right words to capture a problem as big as the overheating planet. For most people, what climate change really means for humanity’s future hasn’t sunk in yet; otherwise, he reasons, everyone would be clamoring for action. How do you make that terrifying reality sink in faster, he wondered? Magnason’s book On Time and Water, recently released in the United States, is his attempt to answer that question. 

The book argues that despite all the warnings, people do not yet fully grasp the ramifications of a hotter planet. One problem, Magnason writes, is that the language of the climate crisis is still too new, too filled with jargon, too tainted by an obsession with economic growth. 

Magnason proposes that this lack of emotion when discussing global warming, this reluctance by scientists to infuse the words they use with the full force of their meaning, is hampering our ability to connect with the subject and grasp what is truly happening—and what is at stake. But to comprehend such an unfathomable topic is no easy task.

He then compares the subject of climate change—impenetrable in its enormity—to a black hole. It is impossible to look at a black hole directly; instead, scientists must look past it to the stars nearby. Similarly, the sheer magnitude of the statistics surrounding climate change and the true meanings behind them are so vast that they lose all meaning to the average person.

Yet it is not merely the scale of the problem that is the source of our bewilderment, but also the predominant ideas of our current time. “People live inside their own realities, locked in the prevailing language and power systems of their contemporary moment.” This is the ultimate paradox when it comes to conveying the true enormity of the climate crisis. As Magnason points out, people in the 1930s would hardly have comprehended the word “holocaust,” a word which now carries the connotation of indescribable horrors. Imagine if the words “global warming” and “ocean acidification” carried the same weight, the same power to terrify as the words “nuclear winter,” “invasion,” or, indeed, “virus.” Perhaps it is impossible for us to wrap our heads around the true significance of these words until we have witnessed with our own eyes the dire consequences wrought by the phenomena they describe—by which time it will be too late.

Creed Comments: This book is rare in its approach to the climate narrative - repurposing the language to make the crisis more relevant and comprehensible.

A good example is his description of the government officials who show up at climate conferences to haggle over emissions cuts. He says we should call them, “weather gods.” This is because the decisions they make affect whether glaciers survive, how powerful hurricanes become, and how much of the world’s coastlines will be sacrificed. 

The book ends with a postscript, written last May when the pandemic kept people huddled inside, asking whether humanity will learn any lessons from the coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

In the long-term, he believes that living through the so-called Anthropause could change how people respond to climate change. “I think the climate crisis will actually look easier after this than it did before,” he said. The way Magnason was raised, “it was almost unthinkable that any sector of industry could be shut down, just like this, over a weekend.” 

But the Greta Thunberg generation has now seen the “pause button.” Governments really can shut down the economy if the situation is deemed dangerous enough. When this generation of young climate activists become the weather gods, they will know that button is there — and maybe they’ll press it.


INSIGHTS/MOBILITY

(source: Wikipedia)

Public transit commuters have vanished…but climate change hasn’t

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, public transit is hanging by a thread in many cities around the world. Riders remain at home or they remain fearful of boarding buses and trains. And without their fares, public transit revenues have fallen off a cliff. In some places, service has been cut. In others, fares have gone up and transit workers are facing the prospect of layoffs.

That’s a disaster for the world’s ability to address that other global crisis: climate change. Public transit offers a relatively simple way for cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention a way to improve air quality, noise and congestion.

(source: New York Times)


In some places, fear of the virus has driven people into cars. In the United States, used car sales have shot up and so have prices of used cars. In India, a company that sells secondhand cars online saw sales swell in 2020 and its own value as a company jump to $1 billion, according to news reports. Elsewhere, bike sales have grown, suggesting that people are pedaling a bit more.

As a result, transit agencies that have been bailed out by the government are wondering how long the generosity will last, and almost everywhere, transportation experts are scrambling to figure out how to better adapt public transit to the needs of riders as cities begin to emerge from the pandemic.

Still, there’s ample reason to worry that public transit may never come back fully. The problem is twofold. First, if commuters shun public transit for cars as their cities recover from the pandemic, that has huge implications for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Second, and most importantly, if transit systems continue to lose passenger fare revenues, they will not be able to make the investments necessary to be efficient, safe and attractive to commuters.

One of the busiest metro systems in the world, the London Underground, which normally clocks around four million journeys every weekday, is currently operating at around 20 percent of its normal capacity. Buses are a bit more populated, running around 40 percent of normal. The city transit agency, which had once projected a budget surplus for 2020, has instead been relying on government bailouts since the pandemic hit. It expects it will take at least two years to see public transit usage return to prepandemic levels.

With the global transition to on-demand electric and autonomous vehicles (i.e, Uber and Lyft), we may never see public transit return to pre-pandemic levels. That will make fighting the climate crisis a lot harder for cities.

[This post is adapted from the original written by Somini SenguptaGeneva Abdul, Manuela Andreoni and Veronica Penney, appearing in the New York Times,]


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