Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An Inconvenient Reality

While on vacation, I managed to do a little reading and movie watching. Finally had a chance to see An Inconvenient Truth, and like Valerie, I was stunned by what I learned. I was surprised to see all the details laid out, supported by actual science and I was pleased that there was time at the end for real, implementable solutions. I even went to the Climate Crisis web site, to see what I could do. Turns out, we are doing pretty well - we have moved the kids to Laptop Lunch boxes and have trash-free lunches now. We recycle a ton, compost in a worm composter, turn off electric devices when we are not using them, run our washing machine on warm or cold, and have trees planted on the hot side of our house. We live within walking distance of my son's school and he has lots of friends that live nearby. The one thing I have trouble getting in sync with is using my car less.

We were finally offered a slot for our daughter at the daycare near my office. This means that she and I get to "commute" together to the office. Riding our bike would be fun (she has a half wheel attached to my bike), but honestly, I am worried that ditching my car for the commute would not actually be better for my kids. Here is it would look if I wanted to ride my bike with my current 8-5pm schedule:

7:15 am - leave the house with both kids, drop oldest off at school, ride to work with youngest
7:50 am - drop her off at daycare, hope it is a quick drop off so I can get to the office before 8am
8 am - 5pm - work, work, work
5pm - leave office, pick up daughter, ride to pick up son
5:40pm - pick up son, home by 6pm

A couple things to note - daughter is not actually a contributor to the bike ride, she hangs on and chats while I do the heavy lifting. And, while my driving commute is 15 minutes the bike ride would take 40.

So, while I could help the environment by riding my bike, the inconvenient reality is that it would be hard on my family. My son would end up away from the home 10 hours a day, and he is only 6. My daughter would probably enjoy the ride and it would be great to spend time with her every day, but does a 4 year old need to be subjected to bad drivers and uphill climbs?

After watching the movie, my husband and I were both thoughtful and over dinner spent time thinking about what we can do. We decided that it is important to start with things that we can do within our family, and we talked about ways to educate our kids and make different choices. The great part is that we are in an area that is very supportive of helping the environment, so making changes should be straight forward. On our return from vacation, we spent Sunday riding our bikes to the farmers market and talking about scheduling a test drive for a hybrid vehicle. Our 6 year old son understands about the earth getting warmer and Greenland melting, so conversations about recycling and trash-less lunches are fairly straight forward. And for now, we will find times to ride our bikes where we can impart the message of getting out of our cars, perhaps once a week to work or to the park. I will limit my trips in the car, look for more local activities for the kids and encourage us to think twice about using the car. At least for the next 12 months, this will probably be the way it is, as completely getting out of the car is not a viable solution for us (yet)....

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