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Cool the Engines

Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute

We keep getting hotter
Movin' way too fast
If we don't slow this fire down
We're not gonna last
Cool the engines
Red line's gettin' near
Cool the engines
Better take it out of gear
Boston, “Cool the Engines”

Although the classic rock band Boston is always “cool,” its home city has been anything but cool lately. In April, inexperienced Boston Marathon runners were asked to sit out the event due to dangerous record high temperatures. The first full day of summer set another Boston high-temperature record.

“So what?” you may ask. “Record temperatures—high and low—are set every year.” Yes, but under normal circumstances, record highs should roughly equal record lows. So far this year, here in the U.S., we’ve not only been setting record amounts of record high temperatures… we’ve been setting them at ten times the rate of record low temperatures. This is the hottest year we’ve experienced since we began keeping such records in 1895.

“Well, the climate’s been changing since time immemorial,” you may claim. True, but the past drivers of climate change, such as small changes in the orbit of our planet around the sun, all point toward global cooling, not warming. Our current trend is not only in the wrong direction, it’s occurring far too rapidly. The only explanation is our burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, natural gas—which release massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere worldwide. In a nutshell, we’re taking prehistoric solar energy, stored in the form of fossil fuel-based carbon bonds created slowly over millions of years, and then, by burning, releasing all that carbon back into the atmosphere over the course of a few centuries—the blink of an eye in geologic time. It would be foolish not to expect some drawbacks to such rapid and drastic global change.

“Yeah, but we humans can’t possibly impact the planet on such a large and negative scale,” you may retort. Really? Have you seen our planet from the perspective of space-based satellites lately? Remember that the vast majority of all those bright lights are powered by fossil fuel-burning power plants. Deforestation and climate-induced floods and wildfires, also clearly visible from space, release still more carbon into the atmosphere in a feedback loop that reinforces still more climate change. Every year, humans add to our atmosphere more than 100 times the amount of CO2 released by all the volcanoes worldwide. Now that’s impact!

“Well, what can I possibly do about it?” you may ask, throwing up your hands, “We can’t go back to the Stone Age.” And you’re absolutely right. Everyone trying to live like our hunter-gather ancestors is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. I study climate change and human impact as part of my Environmental Engineering doctoral research. I happen to believe that science and technology can save us—but not, as some claim, by re-engineering the planet to compensate or counteract our fossil foolishness. No, I believe in kinder, gentler technologies that operate in harmony with nature—not attempt to rewire it. Solar, wind, and energy-efficiency technologies—the kinds of practical planet-saving programs we’re teaching at America’s first Ecotech Institute—can cool our planet’s engines. Won’t you join us? We’ll leave the light on for you. Well, actually, our lights are on motion sensors to save energy and reduce fossil fuel emissions, but they will turn on when you walk in!

I'm no fool
I'm gonna keep it cool
And take it day by day
Boston, “Cool the Engines”

Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at kyle.crider@ecotechinstitute.com