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    Stewardship Tips: Going Car Free

    By Anna | September 25, 2014

    It is Car Free Day today in the D.C. Metro.  According to carfreemetrodc.org, the goal of Car Free Day is to reduce traffic congestion.  This helps to create a greener environment and reduce gasoline demand. Worldcarfree.net expands upon the goals of Car Free Day by stating, “We do not want just one day of celebration…it is up to us…to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars.”

    We would agree with that sentiment.  We don’t need one day to celebrate being car free.  We can be car free any day of the week.  We would add that a car free day, whether done on Car Free Day or from conviction, also benefits our fish.  The emissions from our cars contribute to acid deposition and ocean acidification both of which affect our fisheries adversely.

    According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “our cars and trucks are a major cause of global warming. Collectively, they account for nearly one-fifth of allU.S. emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. About 5 pounds comes from the extraction, production, and delivery of the fuel, while the great bulk of heat-trapping emissions—more than 19 pounds per gallon—comes right out of a car’s tailpipe.”

    And it’s that stuff, the stuff that comes out of our cars’ tailpipes that contribute to the creation of ozone.  Ozone is created when the emissions from our vehicles interact with sunlight.  Ozone at ground level accelerates the oxidation of acidic compounds.  These acidic compounds return to earth through acid deposition, more commonly known as acid rain.  Acid rain damages fisheries that cannot buffer the acid.  Acid rain has damaged, and has, indeed, destroyed, fisheries in the Adirondacks and in the Shenandoah National Park.

    In addition, the emissions from our cars contribute to the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the environment.  The oceans do help by absorbing atmospheric CO2.  However, dissolving CO2 in seawater increases the concentration of hydrogen ions, which decreases pH.  The oceans’ preindustrial average surface pH was about 8.179; the current average is about 8.069.  As the pH of the oceans drop, a process is known as ocean acidification, fewer larval marine species, the species at the base of the food chain, survive.  The results are predictable.  When you remove something from the bottom of the food chain, the species on the top are affected.

    By going car free for a day, we can reduce emissions and make a dent in the problems, such as acid rain and ocean acidification, which our fisheries face.  As individuals, when we go car free, we may place a small dent in the problem.  Collectively, when many people go car free, if only for a day, we place many small dents in problems such as acid rain and ocean acidification. We don’t need a special day to celebrate being car free.  We can be car free any day of the week.  Whether we go car free on Car Free Day or on any day of our choosing, our actions benefit our fish.


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