Editorial: Ride the bus every day, not just next week

We commend the Vashon Island School District and the Vashon PTSA for encouraging parents to get their kids onto school buses next week. It definitely matters. Funds are tight, and the number of kids who climb aboard between Oct. 12 to 16 will dictate the amount of money the district receives to cover its high transportation costs.

We’d like to take it one step further, however. We think kids should ride the bus every day.

The reason is simple and obvious: It’s one small but unquestionable way we can reduce our carbon footprint on Vashon.

This practice of parents offering kids door-to-door taxi service is relatively new. Most of us remember long walks to school or chilly mornings at the bus stop. Those parents who drive their kids to and from school these days do so, no doubt, out of good intention. Some of our kids have heavy academic loads and busy extra-curricular lives, and we see this service as a kind gesture; others are cold and uncomfortable on our wet, chilly mornings.

A more profoundly loving gesture, however, is to do what we can — individually and as a communty — to slow the world’s march towards a profoundly altered climate. Many of us won’t be here when some of the devastating impacts of climate change are expected to be delivered upon our planet. Our kids will be. Is this the legacy we want to leave them?

We realize it’s tricky on Vashon to reduce our dependence on cars. Our country is built around the automobile, especially in rural areas such as ours, where Metro service is not extensive. We also realize that the district’s reduced bus service — a reduction it made in an effort to balance its budget — adds a layer of complexity. Some kids now have to walk farther to bus stops; some lost those stops altogether.

But there are many kids for whom bus ridership is easy: Teenagers who can walk a block or two or, yes, several to catch a bus; younger ones who can wait for a bus with a watchful adult — parent or neighbor — nearby.

And more to the point, it’s critical that we convey a different message to our kids — a message that riding the bus is a good thing not simply because it saves the district money but because it’s imperative in this time of impending climatic change and all that it portends.

Paul Krugman, The New York Times’ Nobel Prize-winning columnist, recently wrote a powerful if despairing piece about climate change, noting that one of the reasons our political leaders have not addressed the issue of climate change is because, as he put it, “Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient.”

Let’s teach our kids something really meaningful: Let’s teach them that a bit of inconvenience is a small price to pay to address what is unquestionably the greatest ecological challenge of our lifetime. And let’s remember that if we do so, we’re doing it not for ourselves but for them.

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