Air Pollution is a Global Problem- Let’s Discuss Real Solutions

Driving is a costly endeavor. Gas, registration, seemingly constant repairs, toll-booths, parking meters… the list goes on. But something I’ve just been made aware of is the concept of Congestion Pricing.

This concept is in play in some big cities around the globe, though it’s still fairly untouched compared to what it could be.

A summary of it is that for driving in certain areas under regulation, drivers are expected to pay a fee. London has this going on, specified towards cars that pollute at a certain threshold or higher.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to understand all the laws behind pollution in city limits, or what different air pollution standards are.

But what I understand is that it is intended to deter people from driving cars made by less considerate manufacturers. The fee isn’t much in London (it’s about 10 pounds, or $13.50), but that’s a toxicity charge stacked on top of a congestion charge for simply entering central London.

That can get fairly costly, fairly quickly. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. My inner, slightly frustrated hippy says, “good. if they’re going to destroy the Earth, screw them”, but every other part of me says, “well now, that’s charging a lot of people for something that they can’t just magically change overnight. Cars are expensive. Especially newer cars.”

I get it. And I agree to a certain extent on the logic. We need to start doing more, globally, to fight pollution. But if you walk into a wall, you don’t blame the wall for doing what it’s got to do. You blame yourself for walking into it. Focus on the cause of the problem.

And that’s where I say I agree, but not fully. In a roundabout way, this does. But it harms a lot of people in the process.

By charging more for certain cars, older ones (usually cheaper, but not always– Volkswagen hippy-buses are wicked expensive, so there goes my dream of living in one while traveling the country), you’re harming the people that probably already can’t afford much more. The charges, in my opinion, should go to sellers of cars that go against regulations. A used car dealership that sells a $2,000 car for $6,000 can afford it. A poor, single mother of three can’t.

I realize there would be a lot of difficulties in figuring out how much to charge, how often, etc. But lawmakers are crafty. If they want something done, they will. We can only hope it’s for the best.

And this is where other solutions come in, because I’m not a marketing specialist, nor do I have any influence on city lawmakers. I can voice an opinion, but they listen to the masses of their respective cities, not some college student from a town they’ve never heard of.

This New York Times article posed one suggestion from the NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio. For the city itself, he suggested that there be a ban on delivery vehicles during rush hours. I’d wager that FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service are slightly busy doing their stuff at 8 a.m., and are probably annoyed at having to wait anyway. Take them out of traffic, let others through, then they can slip in afterwards and do their deliveries with fluid motions. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

I think there should be more incentives (probably financial, because that seems to work the best for average folks) for carpooling and bus-travel, though. Maybe combined with de Blasio’s suggestion? I’m not sure on that. But making the prospect of traveling with others more attractive does three things, at least. It (A) limits how much pollution is emitted, (B) lowers costs for each person traveling, and (C) lightens up the roads.

There are bound to be plenty of other suggestions, but the fact that I’m just reading about this stuff today, even with pollution being a global issue, is a sign of how little we focus on solving problems compared to simply complaining about them.

If you live in an area that can use a solution like these, or others, talk to your local town/ city council. Those folks are there to listen to you and your concerns, and nothing will get done if nobody speaks up.

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