With all the talk about developing greener technologies and alternative sources of energy to curb our consumption and clean up the environment, are we ignoring the simplest solution – walking more? Worldchanging asks us to reframe our current thinking and consider the time tested notion of “muscle power” to not only positively impact the health of our planet, but that of its cities and people as well. Their discussion references findings from two older studies – 2003 and 2005 respectively – that offer some stunning statistics, prompting us to wonder why this “radical” idea doesn’t warrant further research, let alone enter into the discussion more often.
By the authors calculations, replacing short car trips with walking or biking could lead to profound reductions in oil consumption — saving more oil over a ten year period, perhaps, than oil companies could ever extract from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). At the same time, increasing daily exercise could help Americans lose between 26.8 and 57 pounds per person (!!), virtually eliminating obesity and overweight conditions for most people. From the extra exercise, the nation would save $117 billion per year in health care costs, or a little under $400 per person each year. Finally, if, as a matter of policy, those health savings were invested into CO2 abatement strategies, the nation could reduce its CO2 emissions by 35%.
While this plan may not be without its own obstacles, it needs to become a bigger part of the conversation, particularly as we look to designing sustainable communities for the future that promote this change in lifestyle. And if we except this rationale, then perhaps the question that needs to be raised going forward is, how do we really get people to walk more?
[image via New Scientist]