Francophiles, please pardon me if the machine didn’t translate the title idiomatically, but that’s about what I would have said back in the days I was more facile with French. So it represents me. And, I have to say, it reads really well.
I am still with the Paris Accord. I will reduce my carbon footprint 25%, and I will do it long before 2025.
When it comes to carbon (and other greenhouse gasses), almost every American is in the top 1%. Because I live in a temperate climate, my greenhouse gas production is low for an American, but that doesn’t exempt me from doing what I can — directly, measurably — to reduce the damage I do. Our government has abdicated its responsibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t step up as individuals.
If I want to reduce the harm I cause, I have to know: Where do I produce the most greenhouse gasses?
Gasoline, of course. That’s a big one. Beef, sadly, is another. Methane. I read today that Chicken is less greenhouse-gassy, as is fish. (As I type this I’m listening to the neighbor’s chickens.) Heating and Air Conditioning are a factor, even here. And then there’s just stuff. Buying things I don’t need packaged in materials that never die. Also, almost everything I use consumes electricity, and around here that mostly comes from natural gas.
It’s kind of too bad they couldn’t get nuclear right. We’ve traded the potential localized disaster of a nuke plant popping with the guaranteed global disaster of coal-generated power.
But mostly for me it’s food and transportation. And stuff. Which leads to my max-hippie-point morning:
I was delighted as I rode my bike to work today to see a farmer’s market setting up in a parking lot I ride through. An excuse to sleep an extra 30 minutes on Fridays, so it will be open when I pass through. How the veggies fare after a 15-mile ride home will have to be determined.
At the other extreme:
As soon as I get back from my 3000-mile road trip this summer, I’ll definitely cut back on the miles I drive. Definitely. Hey, I’ve got until 2025, right?
Flatulent herbivores aside, there’s need for sensible commitment to less destructive, wasteful living. But that assumes our corporate masters will allow a diversion from our accelerating consumer culture.
Between the two extremes of my neighbor who drives a one-ton dually pickup truck three blocks down the street for a six-pack and a bag of chips; and my friend who lives to race his sailboat and demands his crew snip the metal tips from their shoe laces to save weight, there surely resides the ‘moderate middle’ approach to — dare I say it? — the ‘conservation’ of our planet’s biosphere. The word ‘conservation’ reveals my age; that word was condemned by acclimation two decades ago in a global meeting of “Save the Earth” extremists. Conservation was viewed as a failure of commitment, a weakening of resolve by true believers. We do not ‘conserve,’ we PRESERVE and SAVE!
That aside, I’ve lived fully three-score and seventeen as a ‘conservationist.’ At the age of eleven I learned that our single wood-fired parlor stove could heat one copper boiler-tub of water in the time two adults and two children required to bathe. Thus we ‘conserved’ hot water due to limited heating capacity. Dad, then Mom, then I, then kid brother bathed in a galvanized tub of warm water, topped off with a charge of heated water from the stove top as required. The thoroughly grey water was emptied outside on a small patch of grass, summer and winter. Total water usage for four baths: approximately eight gallons. Once a week. Other days saw a quick wash & rinse-down at the kitchen sink following a day’s work outside. Our homestead home had one cold-water faucet serving the home’s only sink — the one in the kitchen.
Two wood stoves heated the entire house: the parlor stove, and the kitchen wood range. Two upstairs rooms received heat from below, via open floor registers.
The entire house had four light bulbs, one in the ceiling of each room.
We had an electric refrigerator but no freezer. Few families had a freezer; most families rented ‘locker space’ in the town freezer plant.
Mom had a radio-phonograph. We had no television. We had no telephone.
We had one car. We drove four miles to town and four miles back, once a week, for mail and groceries.
We raised a garden and canned fruit and vegetables; we had chickens for meat and eggs; we had a small goat herd for meat and milk.
We could have dispensed with electricity easily enough, but it had become so ‘convenient’ as to be indispensable. In those days we had no power tools, and no gasoline power equipment beyond a small tractor that replaced a team of horses.
Human waste went into a pit; animal waste went into a pile for fertilizing field and garden, and solid waste — mostly tin cans and broken glass — went into a pit behind the house. Kitchen waste went to the chickens and pigs.
Later, when we moved to town, things went to hell in a hurry. We became tethered to town services; life became one continuing dependency, and the planet began to suffer. It’s only accelerated from there.
We no longer conserve; few of us have the privilege of self-sufficiency.
No one suggests cutting the metal tips from shoelaces to save weight on one’s bicycle; but it might be a good idea to put a basket on that bike for a run to the corner store for a six-pack and chips… if one can pedal a route outside the ‘killing zone’ of most neighborhood streets and local roads.
There’s no corner store? Well, maybe a good start would be… a neighborhood store!
Back to those flatulent herbivores… we need far fewer of those than we might think, and they do also produce the most wonderful garden fertilizer beside that flammable flatulence.
Community services CAN be more efficient than everyone doing it themselves, and population density pretty much requires it. Thus the feeling of dependency. As for our corporate masters: they can offer products but they can’t make us buy. They can certainly make us want to buy, but I pull out my wallet with my own hand. I am resolving to do that less often. Since I’m a bit of a cheap bastard anyway, I’m ahead of the curve on this one, as long as no one tells me the carbon footprint for alcoholic beverages.
But your core theme, that ‘conservation’ is a bad word — I’ve met my fair share of preservationists and it’s funny how black-and-white the world can be for some folks. But I think overall we as a society have (until recently at least) had a healthy mix of “choose important things to preserve, and (pretend to) conserve the rest”. Unless the rest is in China or the Middle East. Then it’s a bargain at Wall-Mart brought to you by cheap oil.
I wonder how high the price of fossil fuel has to go before harvesting cow burps (surprisingly, worse than their farts) becomes just smart business.
So much of this comes down to ending subsidies on fossil fuels. Decisions like that in the US won’t stop the super-polluting freight ships from bringing more crap to our shores, which is why we really need international cooperation.
But what I can do about it is not buy a glass bottle with a little bit of water in it that came from Europe. Or a plastic bottle of water from anywhere (more water is used to make the bottle than what you find in the bottle).