Today, after a couple of weeks of rising pollution in Paris, they’ve introduced alternate day driving in the Paris area. Today being an odd day (the 17th), only cars with odd license plate numbers are allowed to drive. They are worried about the ill health effects of “fine particle” pollution, and it is worrying because the cloud of pollution is visible. I assume this is because of the good weather we’ve been having recently and there hasn’t been enough wind to blow the pollution away. The reasons for the pollution (according to a newspaper article in the newspaper, Le Parisien) are car exhausts (particularly diesel), industry, wood fires and agriculture (and they also blame pollution coming from Germany!).
Less cars has an immediate effect
This has happened before in Paris – the last time was in 1997. The evidence at that time is that the air pollution reduced by about 20% when alternate day driving was introduced. This fact startled me as it shows, very clearly, how much pollution is being emitted by our cars. It’s easy to ignore car pollution and just hope that it’s not really a problem, but this proves that it really is a big problem.
Where should it go?
If the air quality improves by 20% just because there are only about half the cars on the road, then it must follow that during every normal day we’re emitting an enormous amount of pollution from our cars. Where should all this pollution go? Even if there was enough wind to blow it away, where on Earth would we like it to be. We create this pollution every day, in many, many cities around the world. It’s a horrifying thought.
What am I doing to reduce pollution?
I have to be the first to admit that I don’t really do anything to reduce pollution. I own a family size diesel car and drive it to work every day, burn wood fires during winter and take commercial flights quite often. I tend to drive where and when I want and, now, I realize that I assume the pollution issue is just the problem of everyone else. I was recently driving to/from the snow fields and the speed limits were reduced to try and limit pollution, but I didn’t really slow down.
I can’t blame other people for the pollution problem. I have to blame myself first.
So, from now on, I’m going to consider the following actions;
- respect reduced speed limits
- only drive when I have to
- see if I can take the train to work occasionally
- fly less often – stay longer on trips and make less of them
- when buying my next car, I’ll seriously look into hybrid options
- try and support companies that are aware of pollution and make efforts to restrict it
What else could I be doing to decrease pollution?