Excerpt: A dozen MIT students and community members clamber into a van on a bright morning in late January. There’s palpable excitement as the van drives down Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and crosses onto Portland Street. The chilly weather and light snow does nothing to dampen the group’s spirits. They’re on a hunt — for gas leaks, quiet but potent accelerators of climate change.
A passerby can easily smell a major gas leak; gas producers add a chemical called mercaptan, which smells like rotting eggs, as a safety measure. But our noses are crude instruments, says Audrey Schulman, the president of the Massachusetts nonprofit Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). That’s why the day’s activity — dubbed a gas leak safari — which trains citizens to be scientists who can wield data collection tools, is so valuable.