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Arwoooooo! I'm Willy the Wolf and I live in the remote wilderness of northern Canada, together with my pack "The Howlers". Unfortunately our species have been feared for many years, probably you have heard of the 'big bad wolf'. Well, in reality we are neither very big nor bad.  We play our part and do our very best to be kind to the planet, taking only what we need to survive and helping the ecosystem to function in balance with all of nature. In fact by studying us, people have learnt a lot about how ecosystems function and how important it is to respect nature's natural processes. Just look at the Yellowstone story!

As wolves, we're truly seasoned travellers and on the move constantly, roaming across some of nature's most incredible landscapes: mountain ranges, valleys, rivers and forests. We do this all without the need for fossil fuels to power us - for us it's green transportation all the way!

Given our expertise in green transportation, we want to help explain how everyone can play their part to urgently reduce consumption of energy and emissions from our use of transportation. So hop onboard the Willy Eco-Express and lets reduce our dependance on fossil fuel powered transport...Arwoooooo! 

What's the story?

Since the 1950's transport infrastructure worldwide has experienced exponential growth, along with human population. This accelerated expansion, is particularly extensive and rapid in the automobile and aviation industries. This has made it possible for people, especially in wealthier western countries, to transport themselves and their stuff to almost any destination in the world at increasingly lower cost.​

The chart below shows greenhouse gas emissions by transport type and highlights our heavy reliance on road transportation.

Emissions from road transportation are the most dominant, largely due to the privatisation and affordability of cars over the last 50 years. The change from commercial freight to road haulage in parallel to the reduction of trams and trains due to to car ownership have increased the road transport infrastructure as global population and expansion continues. 

 

Looking at the graph below, although road transport has the largest share of emissions, we can see that flying is by far the most ecologically destructive mode of transport, per passenger kilometre travelled, on earth. It also an underestimated value, since it is reported to be at least twice the effect when you take into account contra trails, water vapour, and nitrous oxide, emitted at high altitudes, where the impact is greater.

 

The second biggest emitter is a large family sized vehicle, for example and SUV, with an average number of 1.5 passengers. How often do we see larger cars, or vans, driving with just one person? It's a common sight these days. 

Data Source: EEA report TERM 2014.

It seems worthwhile focusing in on the two most common and polluting types of transport, aviation and road transport to understand how we got here, and look at ways to take action and reduce our carbon emissions and ecological footprint right now.

Air travel

Due to rapid globalisation and international relocations, hopping on a plane, either for work or leisure, has become a regular custom for many of us. Artificially low costs, convenience and speed have led to a travel culture where frequent urban city flying and long distance travelling have become very much attainable to many people. The demand is increasing amongst new and existing travellers and the amount of passengers in the skies is set to double by 2035. The trouble is the ticket costs do not reflect the "true cost" i.e. the destruction of nature, the loss of species and habitats, environmental pollution and depletion of the earth's natural resources. Isn't it completely illogical that it can be cheaper to fly from one city to another in Europe than to buy a 48-hour ticket for the local public transport network?

 

As much as we know the joy that can come from a weekend city-break or a winter holiday in the sun, the sobering reality is that flying is one of the most ecologically destructive things we can possibly do. A single flight from Europe to America for example, will eat away at our per person CO2 target and flying is the most polluting mode of passenger transport on earth.  

It's worth remembering that as little as 20% of the worlds population have ever set foot on a plane, but this is expected to rise exponentially in the future which is worrying to think given it is by far our most polluting mode of transport. Impact flying has on the environment​

Car travel

The reliance upon the car for nearly every minor trip we do has become unsustainable too. The heavier SUV vehicles, often symbols of luxury more than anything else, have gained much popularity in recent years. An SUV occupied with one person is one of the most inefficient and second most polluting mode of transport on earth. We often choose a mode of transport for speed, or entertainment, aesthetic value not for the cleanliness of it. While this has been the norm in the past we need orange t ch radically

 

The problem is manifested by the enormous road transport infrastructure that has developed so much and created high expectation that goods can be delivered to our doorstep, this is hugely unsustainable. The expectation has the potential to cause wide scale dysfunctional behaviour when we all have to re-baseline our behaviours and lifestyle expectations.

 

What we can do?

We need a complete redesign and rethink of our transport systems with a focus on localised, green alternatives, and a transition away from the reliance upon cars and aviation and fossil fuelled transportation in general. This means fundamental changes in our behaviours, working from home more, using video technology instead of flying across the world for work conferences, focusing on home self-sufficent living and thereby reducing our dependance on global supply systems. It means thinking about where we purchase our products from, and is part of the greater context of holistic economic systematic change.

The challenge we have set for ourselves (and we encourage you to join in!), is to reduce air and car travel as much as possible and consider alternatives for each trip. Below are some ideas to keep in mind.

Get fitter and stronger, cycle, walk more. Discover and interact more in your locality, find walk/ cycle routes and slow down our expectation that everything needs to be immiment. Learn from the rhythm of nature.

As mentioned in green living buying more seasonal, local food versus the more expensive out of season international food is a great way to help the environment and reduce our ecological footprint. 

Willy recommends:

  • Limit flights per year per person

  • For long distance travel, use of technology and longer stays

  • Travel less

  • Mindset of slowing down applied to traveling, questioning the need in the first place 

  • Localised instead of long distance holidays

  • Use public transport trains, trams where ever possible

  • Walk and Bike instead of car for short trips

  • Considerations of weight reduction and aerodynamics of cars, plus electrification 

  • Get your hands green, grow own food from home, start small!

  • Sharing is caring, think about community not greed/ consumption

  • Mindful Multi-purpose trips (plan route efficiently and multi purpose)

"The biggest single mistake that humanity is currently making is attempting to sustain routine, high-speed and long distance travel by people and transport of goods for a globalised economy"

David Holmgren 

© 2019 Reconnect with Nature.

Artwork by Jon Gilbert

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