The “Live Earth” series of concerts this past weekend missed a real opportunity. Madonna, Bon Jovi, Kelly Clarkson, former Vice President Al Gore and others staged a series of concerts across the globe to call attention to the global warming issue and ask policymakers and individual citizens to “reduce their personal carbon footprint” by conserving energy and carbon emissions in ways big and small. Actress Cameron Diaz, for example, talked about saving water and the impact that wasted water use has on the environment.
Well, unfortunately neither she nor any of her star-studded colleagues talked about a huge waste of water and great emissions of “greenhouse gases” that occur everyday by those who fail to use the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes for shipping goods across North America. You see, in addition to being essential to sustain life and useful for thousand of improvements in the human condition water has another property that is often forgotten by the shortsighted. Water is buoyant. Things, including very heavy things, can float on it and be moved from one wet place to another with a relatively small expenditure of energy in terms of friction or motive power per ton of product moved.
Alternatives for moving goods are all less efficient from an energy consumption perspective and all therefore add more to the “carbon footprint” of our civilization than waterborne transportation. Trains and trucks burn several times over more carbon-based fuels per ton-mile and create additional waste in terms of traffic tie-ups expended tires and accidental crashes per ton-mile.
Yet, there they all were yesterday talking about buying locally produced bottled water (this really happened) instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to talk about moving millions of tons of products over the water rather than the roads and the rails and reducing the amount of pollution, waste, and accidental death that occurs from failing to make maximum use of the St. Lawrence Seaway specifically and waterborne commerce in general. Seaway people want to improve the environment in which we live and we practice it every day.