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Air Quality

Published on March 25th, 2018 | by Cynthia Shahan

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After 2½ Years Driving A Smooth Nissan LEAF, Reflections On The EPA & Politics

March 25th, 2018 by  


It is my 3rd year of driving a zero-emissions, 100% electric car — a 2015 Nissan LEAF. The smooth experience of driving a LEAF since 2015 led me to reflect on the tragic turns of the present White House administration since that very hopeful evening when I leased the LEAF in 2015. At that time, Obama had begun laying strong support for EV infrastructure. There was intelligent support for all things affectinging the cleanliness of our air. There was earnest work pushing and enticing more people to drive emissions-free vehicles. It can be done (for even economically challenged workers), and the Obama administration was making that clear to more people.

Like many, I wished to transition to an all-electric car because of the lower environmental impact and environmental savings, which lead to human savings of course. I was hopeful that my grandchildren — and all children — might not have to deal continually with the awful world of gas fumes. With the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt,  refreshed Nissan LEAF, new electric BMWs, and so many other exceptional electric vehicles around the corner, I saw this tipping point to EVs was coming and appeared unstoppable. It could be a faster transition, especially in the mass transit arena with highly cost-competitive electric buses but slow uptake. It should be a quicker transition. But we have to lead the way by jumping into the electric revolution and the solar revolution, and by electing sensible and compassionate politicians.

Almost three years since I was pulled into a LEAF, I am still uplifted by the quiet and clean electric car, but I also contend with a piercing sorrow due to political changes. I reflect back to 1970, the year of the new EPA. At the time, there was a dream of adequate environmental protection and balance. Many of us thought ecological protections, finally coming via strong policy and government programs, were the beginning of a cleaner future. We hoped we were moving to higher ground.

“William Ruckelshaus’s swearing in as the first EPA chief, 1970; from left: President Richard M. Nixon, William Ruckelshaus, Jill Ruckelshaus (wife), Chief Justice Warren Burger.”

“Children playing in the yard of a Ruston, Washington, home while a Tacoma smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue, August 1972,” by Gene Daniels/U.S. National Archives, via NRDC.

Tossing a frisbee in July 1972, by Leroy Woodson, via EPA

The EPA represented (back then) what seemed completely forward motion for clean air and water. We were finally going to deal with and prevent disasters directly related to our country’s under-regulated business practices and negligence.

Yet, problems persist. As far as all kinds of gasoline fumes go, the American Lung Association has weighed in. Warnings have been given. Air pollution creates disease and kills. What is the current administration doing about this? The federal government should be supporting EVs, from cars to buses. Clean air and a livable environment should be a basic right in an advanced society.

When we leased the Nissan LEAF, clean air initiatives were improving under the Obama administration. The present administration, however, lacks concern, education, action, and intelligence in regards to significant health challenges such as cancer.

The sense of hope and well-being for my grandchildren that I enjoyed briefly in 2015 when first doing away with emissions from the vehicle I drove are still there. But after 2½ years, movement backward makes some of us feel as if we are in Mad Men, and ruled by mad men. Gone are the days when everyone heard the news at the same time on the tele, when phone calls coast to coast were only for the wealthy. It’s the era of Twitter activism, mass Twitter denial, Twitter delusions, and a different world of social commentary. It is the age of looking at one’s cell phone instead of out the window at the trees. What effect does that have?

I meet the same amount of curious enthusiasm about my LEAF today as in 2015 when passersby see me charging and decide to engage. I reach welcome ears when people see me charging and come closer to learn a bit more. On a weekly basis, I fill interested folks with my myth busting thoughts on the fresher reality of clean driving and the ease of a good EV. I charge at libraries for the most part, so people are coming for information anyway. They want to learn.

Top Misconceptions of Non-EV Drivers

Chart via 2017 CleanTechnica EV Driver Report

A recent conversation I had with a Silicon Valley transplant (to Florida) brought home the reality of (and validated first hand) some political insights in a Planetsave post that suggested we are like a collection of small countries — state by state — rather than one genuinely united country. The gentleman who walked over to chat while I charge had moved here from a state with a different prevailing consciousness, one that supported green policy and politics in a strong, broad way.

We chatted about the differences in states. Some states prioritize a living wage — not Florida. California has more incentives for zero-emissions vehicles that even lower incomes can afford them — hopeful laws aimed to cut air pollution. Some people in Florida vote for Disney characters like Mickey Mouse instead of the best presidential candidate. Disney characters won’t save your child’s life. There were intelligent candidates supportive of the Obama administration’s work for cleaner air — for your child’s health and well-being. Why did so many Floridians throw away their votes? Was it merely an absence of energy? Do we lack the ability to think critically? Do we need to take a deep breath of conscientiousness? We do have some positive work being done in Florida to move things forward, thanks to people such as one of my zero-footprint heroes, Danny Parker, who continuously educates others. But more of us need to understand and need to say that voting matters, that there are differences between candidates and parties — even when you see that the people on the ticket are far from perfect. Just because two candidates are imperfect does not mean they are the same, and certainly does not mean they will implement or crush the same policies and helpful regulations.

My conversational acquaintance, the transplanted Californian, seemed shell-shocked by attitudes, politics, and thoughts of many people in Florida. Unfortunately, the first week he moved here, he saw a person carrying a bitter and hateful sign walking along the road. I still remember some of those early conversations I had when I moved to Florida decades ago. Shocking. He wants to move back to the Southwest, maybe Sedona, Arizona, or California. He encourages me to run as well. He has hardly lived here and wants out of the consciousness, or lack thereof, in this state. But running means giving up, and it means the work of transforming the culture and politics of the state is that much harder for those who want sanity.

So, in summary, what are my reflections after 2½ years with a Nissan LEAF? I still love the car, it is still refreshing to drive with zero tailpipe emissions (no tailpipe at all), and it is still an honor to educate and inspire others when I charge in public (which is where I charge 100% of the time, since I don’t have home charging). What would I like more of? Relevant, updated information on the EPA website instead of this: “We’ve made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017, Web Snapshot.”

Related Stories:

uRADMonitor — Global Pollution Tracking Network

Cleantechnica Busts Into The Electric Car Wilderness

2015 Nissan Leaf — 1 Year Review

EPA Estimates Rolling Back Clean Power Plan Could Cause 100,000 Deaths By 2050

US EPA To Review Clean Air Act & Clean Water Act In Search Of “Regulatory Burdens”

 
 
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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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