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ZME.Science

Together, Committed Individuals & Courageous Political Leaders Can Cut Fossil Fuel Consumption

Consumer choices drive fossil fuel production, which in turn leads to global warming. In its landmark report, the United Nations warned, "The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning are choking our planet. This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet,” said the UN’s Secretary-General.

Prof Tim Palmer of the University of Oxford summarized the report this way:

“It is very hard to imagine any credible scientist doubting this… if we do not halt our emissions soon, our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth.”

Our planet is in trouble, and there’s no question that it’s going to get worse. How much worse depends on our willingness to alter our lifestyle and kick our addiction to fossil fuel and fossil fuel products. The UN Campaign for Individual Action implores all citizens — especially citizens in advanced economies — to help limit global warming emissions. It will take individual resolve, combined with bold courageous political leadership, to change the earth’s current trajectory.

Ask your town to add its name to the growing list of local governments that are boldly stepping up to help slash fossil fuel emissions: (A) Ban the use of gas lawn equipment, and (B) Urge citizens to avoid leaf blowers.

Ban Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment

Gas lawn tools are outdated prodigious polluters that should be banned for four reasons:

(1) They significantly impact global warming,

(2) They pose a serious threat to human health,

(3) They can do permanent damage to hearing, and

(4) They are fatal to pollinators, insects, and small animals. These tools exact a huge toll just to tidy up our yards.

Gas-powered equipment impacts global warming: To illustrate, operating a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits the same amount of pollution as driving a Toyota Camry 1,100 miles. In further illustration, gas-powered lawn equipment emits more fossil fuel pollution in California than all of the passenger cars combined.

Gas-powered lawn equipment harms human health: Gas-powered lawn tools spew dangerous fumes including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and ultra-fine hydrocarbon particulate matter. In addition, the 200mph hurricane-force winds kick up clouds of mold, fertilizer products, animal feces, pesticides, herbicides, fungus spores, rodenticides, and other chemicals which stay airborne for days and spread throughout the neighborhood. The ultra-fine particles are particularly dangerous because the smaller the particle the more deeply they can be inhaled into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream. This increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, respiratory disease, and asthma.

The American Lung Association, the EPA, and the Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center have issued warnings about the health risks associated with gas-powered lawn tools. Children are particularly vulnerable because 80% of their lung development happens after they are born. Perhaps at the highest risk are the workers who must operate the equipment for 6-10 hours/day.

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Gas-Powered Leaf blowers can cause permanent hearing loss. The World Health Organization warns that at 106 decibels (roughly the level of a rock concert) a person has only about four minutes before hearing damage can begin to occur. Landscape workers who operate 90-115 decibel leaf blowers for hours each day are particularly at risk of permanent hearing loss.

Gas-powered lawn equipment harms biodiversity: Of all the types of lawn equipment, leaf blowers are the most environmentally destructive. Their 200mph winds damage new plant growth and developing flowers, and cause the suspension of photosynthesis and other natural plant functions.The German government advised its citizens to avoid leaf blowers due to concerns over the plummeting numbers of insects. Leaf blowers wipe out the natural habitats and shelters of butterflies, bees, fireflies, moths, swallowtails, ladybugs, earthworms, fireflies, and many other species which are necessary food sources for birds and other wildlife.

In addition, blowers remove the top layer of nutrient-rich soil (nature’s natural fertilizer), compact the ground (which diminishes its ability to absorb water), and dormant disease spores in the soil are blown back onto plants.

Lastly, low-wage workers should not bear responsibility for switching to electric equipment. Rather, the onus should be on the property owner who authorized the work. Some cities have offered buy-back and rebate programs to help with the switch from gas to battery-powered equipment.

Some property owners have chosen to purchase a piece of electric equipment for their gardener to use. And some property owners, such as myself, have chosen to return to brooms and rakes. Using brooms and rakes eliminates the risk to human health, protects air quality, helps fight global warming, and protects pollinators, insects, and small animals.

If your property isn’t squeaky clean, consider it a badge of honor.