“Air pollution is bad for our health. It reduces human life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by more than two years in the most polluted cities and regions. Member states must comply with EU air quality standards quickly and reduce air pollutant emissions.” – Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for the Environment.
When we think of big cities, we very often think of cars. Infinite lines of vehicles creating an alternative horizon. However, what is less thought of is their role in Global Warming.
Air quality in urban areas has been a recurring discussion topic in the European Parliament. Some people refuse to let the environment be a forgotten cause and so before the January plenary session in Strasbourg, a coalition of eight civil society organizations called for better air quality. In response to these and other demands, the European Commission initiated legal proceedings against some countries, such as Portugal.
Portugal is currently undergoing a lawsuit in the European Court of Justice, due to the repeated exceeding of permitted concentration levels of pollutants in its capital, Lisbon. And so, with the aim of achieving pre-defined environmental goals, the implementation of a Low Emission Zone in this city has begun.
Since January 15th, one hundred thousand cars have had their circulation banned from the center of the city from Monday to Friday, 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM ( excluded from this restriction are: emergency, historic, resident, police and military vehicles, armored cash transport, natural gas cars and motorcycles).
Local inhabitants who feel negatively affected by this change claim that this is an exaggerated environmental measure, since the Lisbon City Council is installing a license plate reading system to ensure that older cars that enter the city center are fined.
Should we consider such control excessive? Or should we understand the future consequences of keeping up with a careless behavior towards the environment? Is the government to blame for such behavior? Or are people simply uninterested in acting pro-environmentally?
According to an American study by Susan A. Rice “CO2 has a continuum of effects that range from physiologic (e.g. ventilatory stimulation) to toxic (e.g. cardiac arrhythmias and seizures), anesthetic (significantly depressed CNS activity), and lethal (severe acidosis and anoxia). (…) Acute high-level CO2 exposure in the presence of low-level O2 can produce significant persistent adverse health effects including headaches, attacks of vertigo, poor memory and ability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping, tinnitus, double vision, photophobia, loss of eye movement, visual field defects, enlargement of blind spots, deficient dark adaptation, and personality changes.”.
As seen here, it has been proved scientifically that CO2 can, in fact, have an extreme negative impact on human health and though some people insist on fighting against their own well-being for various reasons, others have begun taking a stand against pollution.
There has been an increase in the number of people who have exchanged their car for public transport. However, it would be important to develop more policies to improve this alternative – more connections and a more frequent service, as well as reduced prices for people of certain ages (e.g. students) – along with letting the population know more about certain environmental initiatives such as the Alternative Travel Project, in order to maintain this “green tendency”.
The Alternative Travel Project was founded in 2010 by film and television actress Stana Katic, better known for her role in the American ABC series Castle. It is a global initiative to encourage people to go car free for at least one day. They believe that “the steps an individual takes toward alternative travel, even for a single day, can have a global impact”, stating that “while cars are often a necessary part of our modern existence, they don’t have to be part of our every day”.
ATP supports their stand with statistics and facts:
“If everyone in the world went car free for one day, 11.7 million tons of CO2 would be saved! It takes over a billion trees (1,170,000,000) to absorb all of that CO2
On average one car emits about 1lb CO2 per mile. One tree absorbs around 20lb of CO2 per year. So it takes 365 trees to absorb the CO2 emitted by just one person driving 20 miles a day for a year.
1 day car-FREE—> 1 billion trees” (Source: http://www.alternativetravelproject.com/impact)
You can find this and many more other reasons why you should adopt a more environmentally friendly behavior on their website: http://www.alternativetravelproject.com.
To sum up, the environment is a fragile system which is largely affected by human behavior. We hold the power to not let our actions negatively affect us. Small actions have a huge impact. Choose wisely whether or not to comply with measures that aim for a better world.