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Davis/My Turn: Take your foot off the gas

After leaving Greenfield Community College 15 months ago, I reflected deeply on “what next?” Hearing Bill McKibben speak, and reading his 2011 book, “Eaarth: Making A Life on a Tough New Planet,” has inspired me to confront what I believe is the biggest challenge facing us today: reversing global warming and climate change.

My contribution to the Climate Change Movement is a regional and then national grass-roots campaign to persuade you and millions of other people to “Drive 55 To Survive.” I have been traveling at that speed for the past six years and it works well.

Conserving resources is the first step in creating a sustainable planet and driving slower is a simple action to take. It does not involve buying an expensive hybrid or electric car or attending protests nor engaging in civil disobedience. This action is within everyone’s reach. Join me in slowing down and you will accomplish a lot:

e_STnS Reduce your carbon footprint. Each gallon of gas used produces 19 pounds of carbon dioxide. By driving no faster than 55 mph (use cruise control), you decrease your car’s environmental damage by 15 to 32 percent, according to “Step on the gas? Not so fast,” a Consumer Reports analysis that appeared in August.

e_STnS Increase th e chances your children and grandchildren will live on a sustainab le planet.

e_STnS Lower the percentage of CO2 emissions now 29 percent — that come from vehicles .

Save hundreds of dollars annually.

∎  Lessen your chance of hitting an animal. Every day, more than 1 million creatures are killed on American roads, wrote Mark Beckoff in an article titled “Animals Emotions,” that appeared in the Sept. 21, 2010, issue of Psychology Today.

Two easy actions you can take:

Start Driving 55 TODAY. As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Ask friends, family, colleagues and local environmental organizations to follow your lead. Leaders are people who are first to act. You will be challenging one of the sacred cows in the climate change debate: Don’t mess with my car. No politician or climate change leader has dared to advocate for it yet it’s the easiest way for you to make a big difference in saving the planet.

Tom Steyer, passionate climate change activist and former hedge-fund manager, said recently: “In every generation, there is an overwhelming issue that people may not recognize at the time, but that becomes the issue that is the measure of what you did. In World War II, if you look back, everybody was measured by what they did in the ’30s and ’40s.

Charles Lindbergh was the biggest hero in the United States of America, and he went wrong on the biggest issue of the day and that was the end of him. Look back to where people came out on civil rights in the ’50s and ’60s: maybe you were right about economic policy then, but, if you blew it on the big issue, then that is the measure.”

Steyer insists that climate change “is the issue we will get measured by as a country and a generation. If we blow this, it will because we were very focused on the short term … and we had no broader sense of what we were trying to do and what we were trying to pass on.”

P.S. If you want to get involved in this campaign, contact me at: drive55tosurvive@gmail.com.

Allen J. Davis, Ed.D., is the former executive director of the Greenfield Community College Foundation. He now resides in Dublin, N.H.

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