Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Transportation and the Environment

By:Afra' Fardillah ZaiMustapar

Unsustainable development throughout the world has left unimaginable ill effects on the environment. An example is the use of motorized vehicles for transportation, mainly cars. In Malaysia, it is becoming common for each family to own and use up to three different cars. The same scenario applies for most other developed nations around the world. Undeniably, the comfort and convenience of travelling in a self-owned car exceeds all other means of transportation. Firstly, the design in which cars are manufactured these days pay emphasis on consumer satisfaction. For example, cars are fitted with the latest radios and CD players, the most comfortable seats and cushioning, air conditioning and safety features such as air bags. In addition to that, the construction of roads, highways and expressways have also provided individuals with better driving conditions, and as such, a driving pleasure.

However, environmental impacts associated with the use of motorized vehicles have become a problem at a global scale. Besides deforestation to pave way for the construction of roads and highways, the use of motorized vehicles causes excessive emission of greenhouse gases. High levels of mainly carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide trap heat within the atmosphere as these gases absorb infrared radiation. The worsening environmental conditions call for a change in the style and strategy of managing transportation issues. More importantly, a change in habits should come from every individual in the society. People should adopt and practice a green transport strategy where non-motorized vehicles become the transport of choice. For example, the use of bicycles for short distance travels. Universities should also ban motorized vehicles within campus areas and provide better facilities for cyclist.

Several universities abroad have already implemented environmentally friendly transportation modes within campus. For example, University of North Carolina in Charlotte, University of Kentucky, The College of New Jersey, University of California in Santa Barbara, Cornell University, University of Oregon and Cornell University in New York. In addition to decreasing air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cycling is the cheapest mode of transportation and is also beneficial to one’s health.

The public should also be urged at the state and national level to opt for public transport whenever possible. Recently, the public transport services in the state of Penang were greatly improved with the introduction of Rapid Penang buses. Thus, using buses and ferries to travel can reduce the number of cars on the road, which in turn reduces air pollution. Although it will take time for people to completely adjust and adopt to green transport strategies, efforts from all parties have to begin now. The environment has fallen sick and is worsening from day to day. A change in people’s behavior from a transportation point of view would provide the environment some relief.

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