For A Better Environment

Change only happens when you change your thinking
Recently, the press has been mentioning Club 350 Vietnam, a group of young volunteers in Hanoi who hopes to change the face of urban streets and improve the environment of the capital city with the Green Pause project. Everyday, members of this group get to the streets and gather at traffic lights to raise banners such as “Stop your vehicle, turn off the engine, save fuel and the environment” to encourage people to shut off their motorbikes’ engines while waiting for the green light.

How much fuel can be saved or how much contaminated air can be prevented has not been measured yet. But many have expressed their support for the young people’s appeal, simply to help decrease the noise and stuffiness caused by motorbike engines while waiting at traffic lights. Meanwhile, many others say only some dozens of seconds cannot make a difference, or say restarting their engines when the light turns green takes time, which may lead to traffic jam or being pushed by those behind. Hence, this group has had to change their banners to “If you wait for more than 25 seconds, stop and turn off engine” to increase the chance of support. If there are still indifferent people, the group will raise another banner, both humorous and pleading in nature: “Please turn off the engine!”

Not long ago, an article entitled “Vietnam launches war on deadly traffic” published in the Huffington Post, the U.S., summarizes the traffic culture in Vietnam in one sentence: “You look out for me.” The chaotic jostling frequently seen on the streets has certainly created a very bad image for cities in Vietnam. The main reasons according to expert analysts are illogical traffic infrastructure, being unable to meet transport demands and increasingly high number of vehicles. And above all, observation of the law is still weak, the manners and behavior associated with traffic participation of citizens are still poor.

Images of young Green Pause participants have been broadcast showing their work at traffic lights persuading people to turn off their engines. One group member says in order to change the simple habit is not simple at all. Some elderly people have shown support and thanked the group but the majority has ignored them.

It is true that to change a habit in the community is a tall order, when carelessness and selfishness have been embedded in public conduct. Experts have spent lots of time trying to analyze the motives, psychological mechanism leading to serious conflicts after very minor collisions in traffic. The tense atmosphere while participating in the traffic is easily recognized but anyone can be the victim of their own psychological state.
If each person tries to cut down a few seconds of noise and heat from the engine while waiting at the traffic light, it may well be a way to alleviate the stress, stuffiness and to save themselves from intense mental state. The quality of the living environment may also be improved. For those who are busy devising strategies here and there, that might be an unrealistic idea. But looking at those young people who do not mind the hot weather standing at traffic lights in Hanoi, trying to change the thinking of people for the common good, there is a spark of optimism in life. That is a real change in the cultural and environmental awareness of modern young people.

By Nguyen Nguyen Thao

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