Leaning into Rapid and Unprecedented Changes

By: Patty L. Buchanan

Making necessary changes in all aspects of our society to avoid catastrophic climate disruption requires rapid and unprecedented actions.  Implementing these actions can be challenging, especially when these changes must be made by large institutions that value stability.  Croton100 is in the midst of a campaign to persuade the Croton Harmon School District to change its plan to buy a new gas school bus rather than committing to make its next purchase an electric bus.  Why is it so hard for the School to take its first step to electrify its fleet of 44 vehicles that emit about 500 tons of greenhouse gases per year when the adverse impacts of not doing so on health and the atmosphere are apparent?

Croton100 has spent a great deal of effort trying to understand this challenge so that we can better help the Croton School District make the right decision in its plans to upgrade its transportation fleet.  In this process it has become evident that it is not the technology or purchase price of an electric bus that makes this change impractical.  Croton100 has shared its extensive research with the School on how it could actually take action to purchase its first electric bus during this upcoming budget year.  But rather than committing to start on the path of progress to electrify the School’s fleet now, it seems to be slowed by fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Looking to other school districts that are laggard institutions, which are not making rapid unprecedented changes, is the wrong direction for the focus of our gaze.  When change is necessary, we are more likely to achieve our goals by looking toward those who are successfully walking on the path of progress for guidance and inspiration, like Westchester County Government that is rapidly transitioning its municipal fleet, including its Beeline buses to electrification.  

There is a pearl of wisdom attributed to Albert Einstein that says:  A problem cannot be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it.

The Croton School District, like some other institutions considering vehicle purchases, has not given carbon impacts a meaningful seat at the decision-making table.  It is remarkable that in this new school bus purchasing decision, the budgeting analysis of the financial implications are the only numbers that have been given a seat.

In addition to its groundbreaking Carbon Tracker, Croton100 has an easy to use Excel spreadsheet that the School (and any vehicle purchasers) could use to calculate the carbon impacts of its 44-vehicle fleet with numerical measurements.  If the School used this type of carbon analysis in its fleet upgrade requests, would the vehicle purchasing decision makers be better poised to adopt necessary rapid and unprecedented changes?  Imagine budgeting discussions that include a spreadsheet with carbon emission numbers alongside financial numbers; a vehicle purchase committee that asks how this purchase decision would impact our carbon reduction imperatives and could easily see the answers.

Embracing rapid and unprecedented changes in vehicle purchasing decisions requires a new factor in the analysis:  an understanding of the quantifiable impacts of carbon emissions.  The Croton School District is urged to change its thinking by incorporating carbon quantifications in its vehicle purchasing decisions.

For over a century, important decisions have been made with inadequate weight given to environmental concerns.  Decarbonization simply did not have a seat at the table.  This should change right here in our village and right now in the context of the school bus purchase.  Our community needs our school leaders to be the change that we all want to see in the world.

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