Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

Global warming is clearly with us. As early as 1964, anarchist Murray Bookchin was writing:

“It can be argued on very sound theoretical grounds that this growing blanket of carbon dioxide, by intercepting heat radiated from the earth, will lead to rising temperatures, a more violent circulation of air, more destructive storm patterns, and eventually a melting of the polar ice caps…, rising sea levels, and the inundation of vast land areas.”

World opinion finally favours action to reverse the heating trend. Websites abound with practical tips on reducing our carbon footprint. Turn down the central heating. Put only as much water as needed in the kettle. Do your weekly shopping in a single trip. But how sensible is the advice? Giving it some reflection, the most complimentary thing I’ve thought of saying is that the enviro-sages are issuing incomplete instructions –incomplete mainly for one very obvious reason.

Suppose I become a true role model of save-the-planet saintliness. I peddle my bicycle to work, install power-friendly light bulbs, and hang my clothes out to dry instead of using the tumble-dryer. I’ll save energy and resources. Fantastic. And naturally, I’ll save money to boot. Super. Well, what am I going to do with the surplus money? Probably buy stuff, of course. That big screen TV is looking pretty good, made in China where environmental standards are minimal and often unenforced, from resources transported by diesel ships and trains from around the world, to be assembled in plants powered from coal-burning generation, to cross the Pacific by yet another diesel ship to my home country, Canada, and, finally, to be showcased on the sales floor of a well-lit, concrete, super-monstrosity store.

So which is more harmful to the environment: taking the bus to work for a year and subsequently purchasing a big-screen television? Or choosing the more costly and dirty option of driving to work with the result of having no money left over at year’s end to fulfil that multi-media, electronic fetish? Not so clear, is it?

Next, let me pour a pint of this on the back porch and see if the cat licks it up: Suppose I live in an area where electrical generation is fairly clean (mine comes from hydro-power.) Then, surely, I’d best not conserve electricity. Someone should be encouraging me, instead, to drive myself to poverty by running the clothes dryer all day long and sleeping with my incandescent lights on. The last thing the planet needs is me having the financial means to buy crap from China when I could be blowing all my money on fairly clean electricity. This may or may not be a goofy proposition; you could argue that all of North America is one giant grid. Surely, I could save the clean energy for someone else on the grid to use. But, really, is anyone in Canada or the U.S. using energy as dirty as that generated in the less developed countries where all the dollar store trifles are made these days?

So I’ve come to realize the problem is not what I buy; it is that I buy.

I can only be certain of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a net sum by not spending my savings. OK, this ain’t rocket science. But I ain’t a rocket scientist, and this stark fact is usually missing from the environmentalist’s council. The prescription to use less energy on various chores only works if I ultimately spend less. Period.

So here are the complete instructions (for people in the developed world) to reduce our carbon footprint:

If you trust that you can save money:

  1. Consume as little energy as possible. Buy as few goods as possible.
  2. Save the excess and retire early. Or work shorter hours now. Or spend the money on services: eat in restaurants, go to a music gig, visit the theatre. Heck, get a haircut weekly.

If you are a shopaholic:

  1. Do not in any way try to reduce your energy consumption: Forget about those new light bulbs; forget about turning down the central heating, etc.
  2. Better yet, ignore all eco-friendly advice. Who are we kidding.
  3. Purchase items made in developed countries. I bet Canadian diamonds and Italian fashions are more your style anyway.