Pedaling for the Future

Recently, I was giving pedicab rides to 3rd- and 4th-grade students at Barton Open School and talking with students about “Tricycles, Transportation and our Big Habitat.” The students loved the pedicab ride. It seemed that at the end of each ride, some students were clinging to the pedicab pleading for a longer ride. What fun!

What is the pump price of a gallon of gas today? Does it seem expensive? Did you know that the cost of a gallon of gasoline that you actually pay is much greater?

Consider this, along with those Barton students: every gallon of gas burned produces about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, in addition to a variety of other pollutants.

To get a better feel for this, calculate the number of gallons of gas burned to inject carbon dioxide into the air equal to your own body weight. For example, an 80-pound student divides 80 by 20 to find an answer of four. So, every gallon of gas burned generates carbon dioxide equal to one-quarter of that student’s body. A good online source for more detailed information on tailpipe emissions is available at scorecard.org. Scorecard asks for your zip code and gives you a detailed breakdown of the sources of various pollutants in your particular area, including the contribution of cars and trucks.

My time with the Barton students was very fun, albeit too short, and educational for all. I was impressed by the way these students were working through issues of global warming and pollution. As I looked at the concentrating young faces, I had a powerful urge to talk with their parents about the costs these kids pay now and for the rest of their lives for our gasoline.

As you make your transportation plans, consider the following:

• Terry Taminen, former Secretary of California’s EPA and author of “Lives Per Gallon, The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction” describes the 100,000 Americans per who die each year due to air pollution and the 6.5 million who are hospitalized with pollution-related diseases as “the tip of the iceberg.”

• Michael T. Klare, author of “Blood and Oil: the Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum” and director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, speaks of the U.S. military, covert operations, and private security contractors as constituting a global security force increasingly focused on securing oil.

• Recently retired General Charles F. Wald testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January about our military spending on oil security. This cost ranges from $50 billion to $60 billion a year — excluding the costs of the current occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

• General Wald, former commander of the U.S. European Command, also stated clearly that the most important single thing that the U.S. can do to improve energy security is to increase transportation efficiency. General Wald continued by saying that we pay about $7 dollars for a gallon of gas if one factors in the cost of the U.S. military acting as a global security force for the petroleum industry.

As I spoke with these 150 or so children from our neighborhood, I asked myself what they will pay in terms of health, war and suffering for our addiction to gasoline. I wondered how many would end up with the military in Iraq, Iran, Colombia, Equador or Venezuela. I wondered also about the violence and pollution associated with oil extraction in Nigeria and Sudan. Will our children pay for each gallon of gas we use for the rest of their lives?

The true cost of the relatively comfortable Minneapolis life I share with most readers is difficult to assess, but we must do so if we are to help our children have a future worth living.

We need to understand our relationship to the planet, to the poor and to the children we are raising. We need to act upon our understanding of what we take away from our shared habitat and what we leave behind.

We truly are all in this together. Our children need for us to choose to live sustainably now so that they will have a reason to look at the future with hope.

Gary Hoover lives in the Central neighborhood and is a self-described sustainable household helper who works in Southwest. He can be reached at gmghoover@comcast.net.