Archive for November, 2010

“The term ‘carbon footprint’ is redundant in relation to you. You’ve your own football pitch sized personal hole in the ozone layer”

This September when some friends and I found ourselves in the San Francisco Science museum (a building so ecologically sound the roof is made of grass) we decided to play with the carbon footprint measurement thingy in the main area. This was basically a large interactive scale, one end of which held your carbon footprint heavy activities and one end of which was for offsets and other measures like double glazing, energy saving lightbulbs etc. So if you used public transport instead of driving you moved a weight along the line towards the offset side, further along if you walked, etc.

I was the last person to take part in this game, and was leading a balanced and wholesome life up until the last question, which was “How many flights do you take a year?” This was a heavier weight than any of the others and extended farther out towards carbon footprinty evil the higher the number. When pushed all the way to the end my life landed on “planet-destroying bastard” with a loud clunk. To be fair I was expecting this. One of my friends rather industriously pushed the carbon offset weight the other direction until I became a reasonable human being again (all the way to the end, yes), and concluded from this that if I were to contribute $3,000 per annum to buying carbon offsets then I would mitigate the damage.

At this stage I felt compelled to point out that this would not work, as the original guage for how many flights a year only went from 1 to 10, thus probably taking into account less than a quarter of my flying activity even assuming they factored in length of flight and assumed an average of at least a thousand miles each.

Conclusion: I am single-handedly destroying the earth*. As I write this, I am sitting in Vancouver airport having flown here from New York via Toronto en route to Sydney, which appears to back up this theory. I spend small quantiities of my time reflecting on the fact that essentially the amount I fly is a $badthing and that I should probably try to be less insane. My job is certainly a good excuse, but even if I stopped doing this job I don’t know if I could stop travelling like this. Well, probably not 10-days-in-Sydney type travelling, it would be more spaced out due to lack of infinite funding. But I have too many friends spread in too many different places, not to mention all the countries I still haven’t seen.

So far it seems to fall on the list of things that can probably be best described by “I should perhaps stop doing this. But I don’t want to. Maybe I shall revisit this question again later in case I have changed my mind to maintain a more convenient stance”. It is now on ongoing if minor mission of mine to find a line of reasoning which either justifies my carbon emissions or gives me a reasonable metric by which to decide how much destruction I am willing to wreak.

This dilemma would be greatly reduced if everyone I like could just move to the same place and/or all interesting places could magically become easily accessible by eco-friendly means. Get on that, universe.

*note: this is a lie. I have several friends who deserve credit for enthusiastically helping. Earhart and NYCDubliner for a start.