A December Saga – for small children to read for their parents

One morning, not many days ago, in a house, in a suburb not far from a big city Mr. William Johns woke up in a tired mode. Mr. Johns was a hard working man that took his car to the office, every morning and came back late every night. When dragging his feet in the direction of the breakfast table, he stumbled and almost fell over a small human person, Sara, that he barely noticed before.

Mrs Vera Johns explained for Bill that Sara, their oldest, now was 7 years, going to school three bus stops from their house and their Tim was already 5 and in the preparative school nearby. Mrs. Johns was managing director for a small enterprise and also worked a lot.

At the breakfast table this morning, not many days ago, Tim asked if Bill could take him to school.

Sure, I can bring you with the car, Bill responded while reading the local newspaper.

No! Tim exclaimed, please come with the bus as the dad and mum of the other kids in school.

The Bus? Bill asked and put the paper aside with a grin. Buses are dirty and pollute our beautiful village. How come that the politicians still waste our money on buses?

I think it is to bring me safely to school, Tim opposed.

Ye, ye, ye Bill interrupted, but today I will bring you with my new spacey seven seated four wheel drive city truck.

No, please don’t! The other kids will tease me, Tim cried.

Dad, I can explain, Sara interrupted.

Today every kid learns about the ecological footprint. The ecological footprint is the total impact we make on the environment when you include all the things you buy including the impact for the manufacturing and the transports, the water used, the energy needed to heat the house and all the travels we make.

Mumbo jumbo, Bill cut in. How was your math exam?

This month all the classes calculate and summarise their ecological footprint, Sara continued without taking notice of her dad’s provocation. He didn’t have a clue about which classes she took and which exams she made. And, Tim’s class is in lead. If you take him by car it will set back their position a lot.

Bullshit, Bill was alerted. My Versatile Urban Cruiser is the cleanest you can find with a 2010 Extra Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle and it runs on the most sustainable mix of peanut oil and switchgrass based alcohol you can find. It doesn’t make any footprint.

You got it all wrong Sara replied. You are running around alone in a two tonne iron lump that uses excessive amounts of energy. If sustainable fuel or not, is not the issue. Today we learn that both the iron, as a resource, and the energy use it self contributes to the impact. This is also why we nowadays learn that a 300 tonne train is far from ideal for transporting a couple of hundred 70 kg persons.

That’s my girl. Bill cheered up. That’s what I always said. The car is just as good as the train and much better than the bus.

Not quite, Sara broke in; the buses have improved radically since you were a kid. Both when it comes to hazardous emissions and total environmental impact.

But, if I go with the bus; I will be too late for the office, Bill responded.

Now it was Vera’s turn to intervene: Actually, Bill, I take the bus every day and it connects quite neatly to the express bus that takes me to the city centre much faster than you can go by car, considering the frequent traffic jam. And, I don’t need to spend time parking.

Bill, who was particularly fond of contests, certainly wanted to help his son to a victory; and joined Tim on the bus. Tim was proud to be accompanied by Bill, for the first time.

The Johns family lived happily ever after.


Tim is still collecting his minimum impact points and plan to do so for the rest of his life.

Sara is planning to become a public transport adviser when she grows up.

Bill now takes the bus and has cut his travel time and has more time at home to enjoy his family.

Vera is about to get into the local politics and is working for securing the most cost efficient and environmentally sustainable transport, buses, in order not to waste the public money on energy guzzling gigantic vehicles.

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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