Dec 02, 2021
Asphalt Community = Good Stewards
BY Sandy Lender
While thinking too long about whether I could put a mathematics symbol in a headline, I considered how easy it is for the general public to misunderstand our professional community. We often refer to ourselves as an industry, and that term sends 50% of the environmental justice warriors (EJWs) who hear it into apoplectic seizures. (I don’t have stats for that; I’m being humorous.)
I consider myself a conservationist. By now, you all are aware of my love of the sea turtles. If you want to do something along the coast, my first thought is, “How will that impact the babies in their snug little nest chambers?”
I’ve witnessed the randomness of hatchling footprints scattering across the sand from a nest cavity and plucked a hatchling off a basketball court at midday, so I know first-hand, yes, light pollution from beachfront condos is real. I’ve also visited asphalt plants with special LEDs directed and hooded to keep light pointed onto work areas for maximum worker safety with minimum lumen escape.
I know for a fact that our asphalt community works to minimize light pollution. Are we sharing that message openly? Widely? In zoning meetings? I don’t think we are because I received—and refused to print—a diatribe disguised as guidance for meeting LEED certification standards in which an author excoriated our community for light pollution. My attempts to educate the author’s team in public relations were met with thinly veiled apathy.
EJWs don similar blinders when it comes to the shortcomings of electric vehicles, which are re-charged when plugged into an outlet. You might think this carbon emissions reducing panacea eliminates diesel fuel, thus should be embraced by the masses. When the masses do not blindly conform, our governments must force us to comply. I’m looking at you, California, banning gas-powered mowers and chainsaws. As the frustrated owner of an electric lawnmower that drives me out of my mind at the 90-minute mark (because that’s when its third battery dies), I think it’s asinine to ban the machinery that works in favor of machinery that frustrates the living daylights out of citizens.
This is my opinion based on my experience.
Sadly, it takes a great deal of effort to educate EJWs to the fact that electricity is not, in fact, generated by superheroes who stand atop pedestals turning the crank on a turbine. I thank Schoolhouse Rock for the visual that has stayed with me since childhood. No, the electricity used to recharge the batteries in our electric work trucks, hybrid excavators, electric underground wheel loaders, and so on is often produced with…wait for it…coal. Luckily for us, the coal industry knows how to mine coal in a more environmentally friendly fashion than it did in the mid-1900s when Black Lung was an issue. I know of what I speak because my grandfather dealt with it.
Don’t try to tell me electric vehicles will save our planet until you fix their net zero map.
I’m a child of the ’80s and an original conservationist. I’ve been re-using plastic bags as trash can liners since before the EJWs were born. I wash metal straws to avoid plastic ones because I live in Florida, where the sea turtles come ashore. And I fully regret purchasing an electric lawn mower with batteries that cannot yet be recycled.
The asphalt community at large is made up of conservationists and critical thinkers like myself who live on this planet right alongside the EJWs who often think with their emotions. Now, I’m not knocking a good old-fashioned emotional breakdown once in a while. Images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can move any person to tears. But the asphalt community is working steadily toward further reducing its already low carbon footprint, assisting in cleaning an environment we didn’t pollute, and learning how to share our good message. I welcome you to our annual State of the Sustainable Industry edition where we look at some of that messaging.