Being a Responsible Parent

Riding my bicycle to work.

After about 1 month of bicycling every work day 18.5 miles to and from work, the results are clear: I look and feel much better, I have lost weight, I sleep better and I have a better appetite.

On the first day of bicycling to work.

I save money and surprisingly also save time: My rush hour round-trip commute of 16 miles used to take me an average of 75 minutes. But to keep myself in shape, I used to have to go to the gym, which would be an additional 60 minutes including commute (but I wasn’t very regular).

The bike route is a bit longer in my case, but takes 75 to 90 minutes round-trip. My battery assisted bike helps me accelerate and ride faster by giving me a little lift every time I push the pedals.

So I get all these benefits by spending an average of extra 7.5 minutes in the commute every work day (even if I don’t count the gym as a part of the car commute). But all these benefits are not what this post is about.

We’re living in amazing times. Even though we have had a rough few recent months (in politics and in natural disasters), we in the developed world are at the pinnacle of progress and well being never before achieved. As a parent, I worry that our children, or their children may not enjoy the same amazing environment. The biggest reason I fear, is the unprecedented increase in atmospheric CO2 levels. There is now about 45% more CO2 in the atmosphere as there was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. It’s the highest concentration in the past 800,000 years, possibly 20 million years. CO2’s ability to trap heat from the sun effectively means we’re cooking the planet’s surface at 1.5 times the rate it naturally would have. Recent news that destruction of tropical rain forests has turned those erstwhile forests into net CO2 sources instead of CO2 sinks is alarming and adds urgency to the situation.

As a family, we seem to be emitting about 21 tonnes of CO2 each year. My bicycling to work has the potential to cut it down to 18 (the biggest transportation item after air travel). Buying an electric car, aside of it’s economics, also has too big a CO2 footprint in its manufacturing and doesn’t provide me any health benefits. I have also donated to the Rainforest Trust to help increase the earth’s CO2 absorbing capability.

The science behind the harmful effects of atmospheric CO2 is crystal clear, and the naysayers are either misguided or have ulterior short-term selfish motives. At the same time, I feel our terminology in referencing “global warming” or “save the planet” even “atmosphere” is all wrong.

The atmosphere not a very big “sphere” (the atmosphere is only 62 miles whereas the earth’s radius is about 4,000 miles.) A more accurate picture is that it’s a thin cloth wrapped around the earth, one that can easily blot. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about “global warming”. The enormous environmental destruction even a small change in surface temperatures can bring should now be obvious to us.

Finally, preventing atmospheric CO2 increase is not about “saving the planet”. It’s about ensuring our and our future generations’ well being. The planet’s going to be around for a really long time even with all the extra CO2. It might just join the billions of other planets that don’t have any life on them.