There are two things you need to know. One is, the environmental organization 350.org was established on the idea that if we went over 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere, climate change would be irreversible. They determined 350-ppm signaled a tipping point which would trigger horrific events of biblical proportions. For years now, the CO2 count has been routinely above 410 ppm and this doesn’t include the impacts of the far more damaging gases like methane. Currently, about 5 million people die every year as a result of climate change.
The second thing is the term, “greenwashing.” Investopedia defines “greenwashing” as, “…the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound.” So in the first of my articles on greenwashing I’m going to focus on the schools.
I became interested in the greenwashing by our government, their many developer friends, and the schools during the pandemic when they started large refurbishing projects. I am also looking into new school buildings, but I wanted to start with numbers that are more readily available: Bellingham Public Schools’ vehicle fleet, (although the county is just as guilty as the city when it comes to environmental issues). BPS has 71 diesel buses Here is a link to the list of school buses in the BPS fleet. and on average they get about eight miles per gallon.
There are no current plans for the schools to buy electric buses, and conversations with Superintendent Greg Baker about the idea have not gone well. Baker related inaccurate information on the capabilities of the buses, including their range. He also contended the heavily stripped Biden Infrastructure bill would only fund about 2.5 billion to replace fossil fuel based school buses with electric ones. While this may sound like a lot, a new school bus averages around $85,000; just replacing the 71 buses we have will cost $6,035,000. With the national school bus fleet nearing 500,000 vehicles, the cost to replace all of them with electric buses is about $42,500,000,000. Unfortunately, only about 1.06% of the infrastructure bill is slated for school bus replacement.
So in yet another example of the “efforts” by the well-monied, ruling elite, it will be too little too late. Of course, the environmentally friendly and reasonable effort of installing a publicly owned fiber optic network would help eliminate the need for giant buses and trips all together. But the schools still remain too spineless to take a stand on this critical issue.
So why am I writing this article? Well the schools, like City Hall, have been busy erroneously patting themselves on the back for the purchase of just a few green vehicles. Is this a step in the right direction? Of course! But it is not even close to enough and they know that. They are trying to distract you from the fact that they have ignored the need to convert to electric for years and, further, have intentionally harmed the environment with their building practices.
The standard claim is that their funding mechanisms keep them from doing the right thing. But tax payers happily approve hundreds of millions in tax increases for the schools virtually every time they ask. Especially for technology.
So why have they ignored going green for so long? Incompetence. The environment hasn’t been on their radar and still isn’t. Some teachers are amazing environmentalists and do care about this issue, they plant community gardens at the schools and have students do artwork of soon to be extinct animals like orcas, but the administrators are stuck in a time warp. For example, recently, I was picking up some public records from the district office. Because they decided to charge me for them this time, I discovered that, despite almost $200 million in tech levy money, the school district can’t accept a credit card payment online. Really? Does $200 million not provide enough extra cash to pay a developer for a few hours to setup a secure credit card payment system? I guess we know now why they still haven’t done much to give you access to their public fiber-optic resources even though the cost is minimal: it just isn’t on their radar. Even after two winters of a global pandemic.
Currently, the schools own 102 other vehicles with an average MPG of about 12, including three Chevy Bolt EVs that the schools purchased recently. Sure, we can make efficiency arguments and say, for example, that a bus carries a lot of people so the amount of fuel used per person is very low. But remember 350.org? We need to acknowledge how dire our situation is as a species right now and do everything we can to prevent our own extinction by Climate Change.
So I ask the schools, and all large organizations, if you are not going to act now, then when? How can you live up to the Bellingham Promise and say that you will “empower every child to discover and develop their passions, contribute to their community, and achieve a fulfilling and productive life,” if you aren’t at least trying to make sure they won’t starve to death? Define “a fulfilling and productive life.” Is the plan that it will end during their primary school years?
The more I deal with the schools, the more I get the sense that, although they mean well and are full of nice people, the left hand simply doesn’t know what the right is doing. We need different leadership.