I realised today that I don’t feel guilty about my carbon footprint, insofar as I am not driven to try to reduce it because it’s naughty.
I do want to cut my carbon footprint, but it’s not guilt that’s driving this urge. Having spent this long researching the consequences of climate change and the link to manmade carbon emissions, I am now hyper conscious of the direct (albeit diluted) consequence of my actions.
During my first introduction to the 3rd world (that’s what it was called back then) when I was 21 on my first journey across the Sahara, I became conscious of my connectedness to the poverty and lack of opportunity that characterises the developing world (as we call it today), and that grew into a firsthand understanding of how the immigration policy, trade tariffs, and resource exploitation that protect my quality of life, make life shit for others on this same planet.
So as for my carbon emissions, it’s not that I feel guilty; I’d just get no pleasure from the activities that cause large emissions. I’d really like to go to visit Mexico and Belize; I’ve created this paradise image in my head of scuba diving and golden beaches. I don’t know if it’s really like that but last month an old friend offered a free holiday to Mexico and I didn’t take it for a number of reasons, but one of the top ones was that I knew how significant an impact of a long haul flight would have on my annual carbon emissions, (it’s massive). This makes me sound like a right tree hugger, but it’s not guilt that stopped me flying it’s a sense of how dirty air travel is, and I wouldn’t enjoy the beaches knowing those emissions were part of the experience.
Imagine you really need to pee, and the only place you can go (for some obscure reason – just humour me) is in your fridge, you wouldn’t enjoy the satisfaction of taking that badly needed pee.
Everyone draws the line somewhere. For me it’s work. If I had to fly somewhere for work I would, partly because I’d blame my employer for the emissions, and partly because in my head I justify it as being a necessary activity. My work has some value to the world, whereas my holiday doesn’t.
When I worked for the BBC there was this regular justification that because of the educational value of the films being made, and them reaching such a big audience, they didn’t have to concern themselves with carbon emissions. Now I work a lot with expert climate scientists. Its crazy how much they travel to conferences and exhibitions all over the world, but they use the same emission immunity of the “greater good”.
Those carbon dioxide molecules created in activities that have a greater good, convert just as much solar radiation into heat as my last holiday, so they shouldn’t be guilt free.
I worked in a chocolate factory, where I saw industrial scale waste (of energy and materials), and did nothing about it because I thought it wasn’t my waste, and I wasn’t responsible. But looking back I think I was responsible for being in a position to prevent waste and not doing it. It’s as good as my own personal waste.
Emissions created at work by individuals can probably make up a large part of the 80% cut needed to get to down to 2 tonnes per year.
Point 1 of the Contentism Manifesto: We won't be wasteful just because we are at work.