How many times have you been told by your mum and dad to go out and get some fresh air? In this Ecolution, we look at exactly how fresh that air is.

This past school year has seen more initiatives than ever, encouraging us to get out on our bikes and cycle. Students and parents across the country, often with the support of local authorities have been setting up cycle buses. Large groups, hopping on their bikes to get to school en masse. Which is amazing. But many places don't yet have the proper infrastructure in place to help people cycle safely.

For a huge amount of us, the car has become the default mode of transportation. Sometimes this is because there’s not yet adequate public transport in place. Or the roads simply don’t feel safe, particularly for young cyclists.

And that is unsurprising.

In 1915 there were 9,850 cars on Irish roads. In 1995 there were just under a million. In 2019, research showed that there were well over 2 million personal cars on our streets. Car ownership has more than doubled in about 20 years! And along with it, the emissions created by them.

The pollution that’s in the air is made up of CO2, methane and many other things, predominantly derived from the burning of fossil fuels. Currently, the levels of CO2 in the air have been measured at 420 parts per million. This is higher than they have been for millions of years. And this is a problem for so many reasons.

The more Carbon dioxide trapped in our atmosphere, the warmer the planet becomes. The more polluted our water and air.

To try and slow global warming and limit global heating to 1 and a half degrees Centigrade, we need to cut all Emissions by at least 45% this decade.

The reason we wanted to do this episode was not just to talk about cycling and cars, but really to think a bit about the air that we breathe. The part we play in making a difference to our own emissions. And what they’ll mean for the future. Because we need to improve on it.

These past few weeks have seen soaring temperatures across North America. Canada recorded an all-time high of almost 50 degrees. Every day records are being broken, by degrees instead of fractions. And this means it enters the news cycle. But this is not an exception. This is global warming, caused by human industry. These heat waves are a direct result of the climate crisis and, without rapidly altering course, they will get worse.

And though it’s largely unreported here, countries in the global south have been feeling these same effects of climate change for years.

In this episode we meet Karen and Lou, a mum and boy who cycle to school through Dublin. Professor Paul McNally of the National Children’s Research Centre discusses air quality and what it can do to our lungs.

And journalist Bob Flavin talks about the future for the motor car. And a lot of other families who want better air and safer ways for us to actively travel.

For more on how you can help to make a difference, or just so as to make it safer and cleaner for you to get to school (when you return) check out Green-Schools Ireland Cycling

Ecolution is on every Wednesday at 7pm on RTÉjr Radio.

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