Climate: Tucson, Arizona, May 6, 2017 HOT!

Weather forecast:

Red flag warning – high winds, fire danger, blowing dust, visibility expected to worsen for travel … especially by car.

Is Climate Change real? Obviously, yes!  Tucson has just experienced two days of record breaking temperatures topping out at over 100°F. It is only May and the roller coaster of weather hitting this region will now dip temperatures down into the 70’s with rain to come.

Hang on because these wild weather swings ensure a bumpy ride into the future.

So far this season I’ve received at least 5 the Pima County air quality alerts from Beth Gorman.  These usually pop into my email inbox with big bold red letters…  Air Quality Advisory, air quality advisory due to elevated levels of ground-level ozone air pollution in the Tucson metropolitan area.

Here’s the conundrum.  The Warning states:

If sensitive to ozone, individuals may want to limit outside exertion until 6 p.m. when levels of ozone pollution should begin to decrease. Intense outdoor physical activity causes faster and deeper breathing, which allows ozone to penetrate into parts of the lungs that are more likely to be injured.

But then it goes on to state that there are ways to combat dumping so much junk into the air that we all breathe in this basin by doing the following:

  •  Reduce driving – combine errands into one trip
  •  Ride the bus, bike, walk or share a ride with friends and family

Excuse me?  So my choices are:

  1. Ride my bike to/from work and all the other things I need to do AND face lung injury?
  2. Take the bus – I would but it doesn’t go where I need to go – to work on the south side of town.
  3. Reduce my driving – I am a primary mode bicyclist and haven’t owned a car in 5 years so this is not something I can reduce as I have already eliminated car ownership in my life.
  4. Wear a respirator while I ride to attempt to limit my lung injury?

On the days that these Pima county advisories are issued I still see many cars on the road.  Cars idling in the drive-through line, people seemingly oblivious to their continued contribution to the pollution in this city, and its bigger impact on the CO2 amounts contributing to the very climate change that has caused record heat this week.  Can you sense the vicious cycle we are in?

Where are the billboards?  Where are the PSA’s?  Where are the community action campaigns aimed at reducing car driving?  Not just the fluffy stuff that makes you feel good for a weekend but the real lifestyle changes and commitments that are more than a slogan or bumper sticker?

Arizona wake up!  You are frying and you are also contributing to the problem.  

The month of April was Bike Fest and the Bike More Challenge from the Living Streets Alliance.  I’m happy to report that I peddled 291 miles during that month for routine life and work transportation.  The little app I used tells me I was able to NOT put 180 lbs. of CO2 into the atmosphere.  

Earth Day, the Science March and the People’s Climate March have all come and gone.  BikeTucsonAZ.org took a timeout to participate in many of the local climate events.  The page has turned to May and the rest of the US embracing National Bike Month.  

I recently checked and a League of American Bicyclists stat showed that there are ~100 million people in the US who are bicyclists.  What if they took the bike more challenge and lived a bike only lifestyle for the entire month of May?  100,000,000 men, women, children, the young, the middle age, the old, all riding bicycles to transport themselves to their routine daily functions.  Think of the impact that they would have on their waistline, pocketbook, and, most importantly, the quality of the air we all breathe and the quantity of the CO2 NOT entering the atmosphere.  When you close your eyes can you visualize that?  As a bike advocate and activist, I can.  It’s lovely.

I’m resolved, I’m committed.  In fact I’ll even go so far as to state that I’ve made a covenant that I will not break.  Whenever possible, in every circumstance that I can, I will always choose to bike there first.  If I must use a fossil fuel burning transportation option, I will pick public transit first to support the infrastructure and expansion of a public good that serves all citizens of the community.   Lastly, I will select private, rental, air or rail travel.

If we are going to make a lasting impact, that is more than a slogan, we must be willing to stare at ourselves in the mirror and ask: “What will my legacy be? What will I leave tomorrow’s children? What will they say about what I did to help solve the most pressing crisis of our planet? Did I help or hurt the only planet that we have that sustains us all?”

Climate change is real 

I feel it as the sun sizzles my skin, the polluted ozone air scars my lungs, and the lack of humidity leaves my thirst un-quenched, my throat unable to speak.  I feel it in my bones.  I feel it in my skull when fast moving storms create crashing spikes of impending migraines.  I hear it as the wind shouts in my ears, the tumbleweeds crackle under my tires, the birds sing in search of a drop of water.  I see it in dry riverbeds that once held water — their rocks not babbling under cool brooks but moaning and crying out for respite and a running river once again.

  1. What do you sense?
  2. What do you feel?
  3. What do you know about climate change?
  4. What are you going to do about it?

May 4, 2017

May 5, 2017