Carbon Footprints

Prolepsis: Global warming (GW) is real system response to the ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, and is caused by human activity. If you suppose that you disagree, there’s plenty of internet real estate for you to express that feeling on; knock yourself out! Ocean acidification (OA) is another system response to increasing anthropogenic carbon loading. If you “believe” in OA but not GW, again: you can express those emotions on that same internet territory; you’ll probably get a lot of likes from the deluded yokel community. If you accept the overwhelming physical evidence that GW and OA are real and caused by human behavior, yet discount or deny the harm that will be the outcome of this particular example of humanity’s profligate socializing of environmental costs, or even make excuses about how bad some past natural disasters were (thus: so what!), let’s simply never bother to attempt any sort of communication with each other on this topic.

That said, we are embedded in a civilization that is currently dependent on burning excess fossil carbon. One reliable way to avoid being a totally shitty person in such a horrific environment is to simply strive to be better than our times. In the GW/OA context this means working to decrease our carbon footprint. If the amount of carbon burned on behalf of my lifestyle is lower than the global mean, then I am at least helping to move things in the right direction, especially if (as I am) I am a resident of a high-carbon-footprint country. If, further, as the legatee of considerable privilege, I spend some of that privilege helping move society in general towards reduced fossil carbon burning, then I am almost a hero (I say this ironically, knowing it is likely to be misinterpreted)! If you are privileged and are at least doing the first bit, thank you! If you are privileged and not doing either bit, well, fuck poor [sic] you and your hard [sic] life. Poor baby, your portfolio is so important. If you lack privilege and are doing either of the bits, bless you (if not, I get it: you deal with a lot of suck, more than I can know in both quality and quantity; plus you’re likely already on the lower end of the carbon footprint scale)!

Here’s what I’m doing. I haven’t owned a car for two years, while I’ve been living in Germany, where I bike to work, walk to shop, and rent a car for a few weeks a year when I really need it. Alas, I’ll be moving back to the US soon, to a city that is actively bicycle/pedestrian hostile. Fortunately (privilege warning) my wife is retired and we can probably get by with the one (compact) car. Even when we both had cars our total driving was much less than the US mean. I try to eat only a small amount of meat, mostly poultry and fish. I’ve blogged already about how I don’t like vegetables. This is a weakness I fully acknowledge, but I used to eat lots more meat, so I am improving. We keep our house pretty cool in the winter and don’t use air conditioning in the summer (except for installing a window unit in the spare bedroom when we have guests). I don’t have a job that I commute to daily (I have had them in the past and have done that). Instead of burning the planet to maintain my portfolio, I am attempting to help give birth to sustainable practices (I’ve blogged about this, too) that will swallow some carbon and make agriculture more carbon neutral or even carbon negative. What are you doing or not doing?