Paris is banning cars. Here's why U.S. cities need to follow suit — basically now.
Photo by Ludovic Marin/Getty Images.

Paris' romantic air just got more breathable, and its world-famous streets more stroll-able.

The city's government unveiled an ambitious plan to ban gas-powered cars from the city by the end of the next decade.

"We have planned the end of thermic vehicle use, and therefore of fossil energies, by 2030," Christophe Nadjovski, Paris deputy mayor in charge of transportation, told France Info radio.


The city's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, had already announced a plan to ban diesel-powered vehicles from the city by 2024.

The French capital is the latest in a string of European cities cracking down on cars.

Oslo recently announced plans to ban parking spaces by 2019. Madrid plans to ban gas-powered cars from the bulk of its city center by 2020.

These moves may seem drastic, but recent research suggests many more similarly extreme steps could be necessary to avert climate catastrophe.

A University of Michigan study recently released estimates the U.S. automotive and electricity industries have fewer than nine years to take large-scale emission-limiting action before runaway warming becomes the most probable outcome.

The Los Angeles skyline in 2015. Photo by Mark Ralston/Getty Images.

"If we do not act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions forcefully prior to the 2020 election, costs ​to reduce emissions at a magnitude and timing consistent with averting dangerous human interference with the climate will skyrocket," Steven Skerlos, University of Michigan professor of mechanical engineering, said in a news release announcing the results. "That will only make the inevitable shift to renewable energy less effective in maintaining a stable climate system throughout the lives of children already born."

Some U.S. cities and states are taking steps to reduce vehicle emissions within their borders.

In May, California regulators announced stringent targets for reducing carbon emissions over the next eight years, including a requirement that automakers sell a higher percentage of low-emission vehicles in the state. A month later, a coalition of 30 mayors, three state governors, and over 100 businesses petitioned the United Nations to join the Paris Climate Accord, in the wake of the Trump administration's announced decision to withdraw from the agreement.

In August, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his administration was exploring congestion pricing — a toll on cars that enter certain central regions of New York City, though similar proposals have previously floundered in the state's legislature.

Could an enterprising American metropolis follow Paris' lead and banish gas-powered motor vehicles entirely?

With 218 million licensed drivers in the U.S., it's a tall political order.

But, to save the planet, they might have to go the extra mile.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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