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Drive a car: You’ll save the environment by dying!

Posted Apr 17 2009 12:07am

Every few years, someone does a study to tell us that the well meaning things we do to save the environment actually are hastening its destruction. Sustain Lane recently reported on such a study being done by Karl T. Ulrich, a professor at the Wharton School of the Business at the University of Pennsylvania showing that cycling is actually worse for the environment than driving a car because it extends your life span which means that in the end you’ll consume more.

“Substituting bicycling for driving is frequently promoted as a means of reducing energy consumption and the associated degradation of the environment,” writes Ulrich. While bicycles have “dramatically lower energy requirements” than cars, “the environmental benefits of human power are, however, strongly coupled to the environmental costs of increased population, due to increased longevity of those who engage in physical activity… Human-powered transportation is therefore less an environmental issue and more an issue of public health. The interplay between longevity and environmental impact is a central feature of the conflicting societal objectives of improving human health and increasing environmental sustainability.”

Of course, this ignores the fact that we don’t make conservation decisions in a vacuum or that transportation is the only environmental factor. Plus, the health care costs of an obese nation spewing pollution in the air is on par with environmental clean up costs. And I guess we shouldn’t clean up any coal plants as that would just prolonging our lives! Still, I don’t know many cyclists who bike for transportation just for the environmental benefit. I’d say the joy of cycling and the ton of money saved makes the greenness of riding a secondary benefit. 

So, next time you are out riding your bike, thank the next driver you see for helping to save our planet by dying an early death. What a way to take one for the team!

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