Sunday, February 11, 2007

What am I willing to give up?

David Morris has a powerful article at Alternet which talks about George Monbiot's new book, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, due out in July of 2007. Referring to Al Gore as our generation's Paul Revere, he says that Monbiot picks up where Al Gore leaves off - offering real, hard core solutions to change. Monbiot's solutions require real sacrifice - and at a level most Americans probably are unwilling to make.

Monbiot writes: "We wish our governments to pretend to act. We get the moral satisfaction of saying what we know to be right, without the discomfort of doing it." I read this and got an uneasy feeling - does this indeed describe me? My generation? Otherwise, wouldn't I be putting myself on the front line, running for office and trying to actually implement change?

Mr. Morris writes: "By claiming we can solve the problem of climate change painlessly, environmentalists confuse us. They offer stark and rigorous presentations terrifying us about the near-term, dire consequences of global warming. And then they offer generalized, almost blithe assurances about how we can avoid these dire consequences without great sacrifice. We are horrified and soothed at the same time. It's a dangerous strategy. Many who focus on the catastrophic present-day images of An Inconvenient Truth believe we have gone beyond the point of no return, which leads to cynicism and passivity. Those who are spurred to action believe that buying a hybrid car or taking an eco-vacation will address the problem." (emphasis mine.)

I am a Hybrid car driver; I focus on eco-vacations; I use responsible light bulbs; I recycle. I do all kinds of little things, and feel really uncomfortable about my "moral superiority." Because I fly. I take several long distance flights each year. I drive to and from work, when I know that I can work from home - this is an issue with my employer, who seems to want me in the office rather than working remotely. I shop. I use my car a lot. I am more than troubled by this, I am actually terrified about my contribution to global warming.

Morris writes again: "Monbiot launches his investigation by asking a crucial question rarely discussed by Al Gore and other U.S. environmentalists: How does the responsibility of the world's largest polluters differ from that of the rest of the world? The average American generates more than 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions as does the average Chinese, and perhaps 30 times more than the average citizen of Bangladesh. (The gluttony of the average citizen of the UK is not far below that of the average American)."

On Gore's website, I've taken the test about my footprint. I am average for America. This puts me at 10 times the emissions of the average Chinese person.

Morbiot's book is written for people who already believe that Global Warming is a crisis; it is not written for those people who have their head in the sand and think this is a bunch of hooey. I haven't yet read it, as it is not out until July, but just from Morris's article, I am aware of the sacrifices I have to make - and again, I ask: am I willing to make them?

I am not willing to not have access to my grand daughter. Does this mean I have to move back to Chicago? I am willing to drive less. What else am I willing to do? On another post, another blogger pointed out that the meat and poultry industry are major polluters - am I willing to become a vegetarian? What am I willing to do? What are you willing to do?


Peacechick Mary said...

When we took the footprint test, my family and I started talking about the items used to score. Transportation - we have no public transportation (very bad), so if we wanted to use it, we couldn't. We are working on solar panels, but at the cost, it is almost prohibitive for the average family. I think if things were put within our reach (like the responsible lightbulbs) people would do it. We started doing some meals vegetarian and smaller portion meat meals. It's a start.

Sewmouse said...

Many of the things that we are accused of are things that are quite out of our own control.

I HAVE to take certain medicines to live. The industry that makes these medicines packages them in exceptionally eco-unfriendly packaging. Not only does it require a lot of energy to produce the medicine, but the packaging materials are also "un-green" and on top of the blisterpaks, they are also packaged in an outter box.

I have spoken to my doctor about this, but apparently this company is the only one who makes this drug, so I'm screwed.

It was at about this point that I decided that I would do the best that I can - and that I do believe that the Deity didn't create us without the foreknowledge that our existance would make an impact on the planet.

I refuse to feel guilty for living and breathing and working to support myself.

robin andrea said...

I've been asking myself that same question. What would I change? I think the biggest thing would be how we heat our house in winter. We're exploring eco-friendly heaters. We're already 99% vegetarian, we eat locally grown organic chicken once a week. The rest of our diet is vegetarian.

I'm going to check out that link, jood. I agree that we are being told that the situation is dire, but that the sacrifices will be small and painless.

Spadoman said...

I guess over the years, I have reduced my footprint greatly. We all can do so much more for sure.

But I believe it's like diabetes or smoking. If the next bowl of ice cream killed you or the next cigarette killed you, then you wouldn't eat it. But sonce diabetes and lung cancer come on and consume you slowly, you keep eating the bad sugar and keep sucking down the camels.

I have used that expression, my ecological footpring, often for many years. To do the real wholesale change takes a lot of courage and the person must put forth a lot of effort to ride a bike or walk instead of drive, or to buy in bulk and bring you rown containers instead of the traditional "packaged" grocery store items.

I could go on and on, but as we get older, it is also harder to work harder than we have had to with the onslaught of comfort, even though we know that this confort uses resources and causes the pollution, because we are older and mor feeble, not just because we are lazy and unconcerned.

Tina said...

Hubby and I haven't flown for yrs now, but seeing your grand-daughter is certainly important and necessary. Becoming a vegetarian? Maybe... but I love it to much to give it up. So, Hubby and I buy our meat twice a year from an Amish farmer about 60 miles southeast of us. My parents have bought all of their beef, chicken, and pork from this same farmer since I was a child. We are able to support a local farmer and avoid the evils of corporate meat farmers. We also drive a hybrid, have replaced almost all of our regular lightbulbs with compact fluorescent ones, plant plenty of trees and bushes on our land, and recycle. Is it enough? No, but at least we try to do our best and teach our kiddo to do the same, and if everyone did that little, too, what a difference it could make.

Tree said...

I firmly believe there is absolutely nothing we can do to change the course the planet is on, a course which has changed many times over millions of years. For every car trip you don't take, or plane ride you refuse, there are billions of people who just don't care. There is no way the people of America will do enough to balance out the damage countries like China and India will do in the coming years.
I also think the lack of fresh water is a much more serious problem than how much CO2 we emit into the atmosphere.
Having written all that, I do my part to live a life that isn't too destructive without turning into a hermit. But, I do these things for my own conscience. I'm a Vegetarian for many reasons, protection of the environment one of them, and to be perfectly honest, it upsets me when meat eaters get all judgemental about the environment. But this is a primary issue in all of this...everything we do has impact on the planet and while one person may refuse to drive a car they may still eat meat and another may not eat meat but drive a car. It never ends.

DivaJood said...

I appreciate everybody's comments on this.

PC Mary, I live alone, but because of all the travel I do, my footprint is considered average to above average. And all the recycling I do, all the conserving of electricity at home, the hybrid car I drive - none of it offsets flying (or the Hummers I see on the road.)

Sewmouse, I understand completely. And my questions are not intended to assign guilt. This is something I struggle with. What am I willing, or able, to do differently to change? And the short answer is not enough to really matter. The long answer is more complex.

Robin Andrea, the other night, at dinner, a friend asked me what I would do if I were to retire. The question was really about whether or not to get a doggie, but I said I would move up the coast, get a lot of acreage of wooded land, grow my own veggies, stop wearing a bra, have two doggies, and take lots of wslks. I said I would have a barn on the property as my art studio. Hmmmm.

Spado, bingo: as we get older we get attuned to certain comforts. Frankly, my body can no longer take the pounding of long distance bicycle riding - especially now, with my health. But walking is good. I won't walk 11 miles to work each day (I'd have to leave for work yesterday) but. And I admit to it: I like my comforts. So I am back to the question, for ME, what am I willing to give up?

Tina, oh, Amish meats - organically raised, humanely treated animals. On the other hand, the older I get, the harder it is to even digest red meat - it makes me feel heavy and tired - so maybe again, for me, giving up meat is a good health choice, AND marginally better for the earth.

Tree, isn't the lack of fresh water completely linked to the amount of CO2 we're dumping? And I hope I am not being judgmental - I feel more like I am searching for a solution - and yes, perhaps it is selfish, but I want my granddaughter to not suffer because of my generation's wanton behavior.

Tree said...

Hi Ms. Jood, there may be some crossover effect although I'm not sure right now what that would be, but the water issue and CO2 really aren't linked.

The Fat Lady Sings said...

This is such a thorny subject. I too live in an area with absolutely no public transportation. The only busses out here are the yellow school kind. To get to work you need a car. Carpooling isn't popular. My husband has a long commute. He's tried to line up rides - but no one wants to do it. I can't even take the train to visit my friends out of state without first driving several hours. There's only one main line - and it goes through the other end of our state. I too am on medication I need to survive - so eschewing it is not an option. Saying all that - there are things I do and have done for almost the entirety of my adult life. I recycle what I can and when I can (there's no recycling center anywhere’s near here - so we compost and try and use as little plastic as possible). I grow most of the vegetables and fruit that I eat. What's left over gets canned or frozen to consume over winter. I only eat poultry and fish - and not a whole hell of a lot of either. There's a whole lot more we could do; and we plan on it when we retire. That house will be built green from top to bottom - including solar. But I don't think those of us who give a damn should feel guilty.