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The Oblivion Offset

Posted Sep 24 2007 12:00am
Flight
Everyone here’s to blame,
everyone here
gets caught up in the pleasure of the pain,
everyone hides
shades of shame,
but looking inside we’re the same, we’re
the same
And we’re all grown now, but we don’t know how
To get it back to good
- matchbox 20

I enjoyed reading Micheal’s blog about paddlers carbon output. Be sure to read it. It’s a good conversation to have. Thing was, I would have filled his comment box to post my thoughts. . so . . instead you get Monday’s blog. LOL!

You know you can do anything with numbers. There is always a proviso and an “if but”. So be that as it may, let’s get some quick numbers; A one way flight on a Boeing 747 between London’s Heathrow Airport to O’hare Airport in Chicago emits about 2,205 lbs of Co2 per person according to the Carbon Neutral Company. To put that into perspective, CNC requests about $20 in carbon neutral donations to offset your trip. Interestingly the average American travels about 12,000 miles per year by car which depending on the vehicle comes in around 13,000 lbs of carbon emitted! Of course for my part I work at home an never travel anywhere near those miles. Total flights in my lifetime? . . 3. According to the calculator on the “Inconvenient Truth” website I am way below average in the carbon emissions department. (small house, newer furnace. . . on and on)

Another way to look at things is by individual energy use. An average American uses about 9 TOE (metric tonnes of oil equivalent), An average Canadian uses just slightly less. The average Brit uses about half that. (Kudos you guys and your $9/gallon gas! LOL!) (lEA, Energy Balances of OECD Countries 1999-2000)

Thing is we should all do our part. To reduce carbon, to reduce waste, to reject war, end starvation and poverty, kill racism, fight the aids crisis in Africa, make sure every person has decent health care, “one bedroom and a bath”, . . on and on. Come on, most of us know what’s right and good. Most of us. The problem of course is what I’d like to call the “Oblivion Offset”. For every one person that actually gives a damn there are another few hundred, (thousand?) that don’t. In the end it’s sad to say but the Oblivion Offset just crushes the actions of the few. Crushes them. Of course with time and education things can/may change. History does show some positive change occasionally on a societal level so there is some hope. Still though is it valuable to point fingers at our neighbors?

As I said, It’s impossible to judge someone else’s number of flights, miles driven, energy consumption, etc., without understanding their complete lifestyle. It’s hard to tell what actions they take individually offset other individual actions. (I think there is a whole glass houses, casting stones, judge not lest.. thing going on there too.) These days we all are aware of “carbon footprint” calculators. So we of course are thinking more about it. Good. These tools give us away to examine our own co2 output. They are meant for us to judge. . ourselves.

In addition there are many, many other issues we face these days and we as individuals impact every one of them. I’d like to see a “Gluttony offset” calculator. How much food do I consume and how much less should I consume to leave more for those who have little? How about a “Medical Care” offset for every person that sees doctors for every little hang nail to leave more time for those without access or insurance around the world? How about a “Military Offset”? One less hummer would provide money how many children’s vaccinations? Of course I’m being a bit silly, but the point is there are all sorts of places we can hold ourselves and others feet to the fire if we so wish. The bottom line is we have to each do our own part or push for societal change. We shouldn’t in my opinion, use these tools to judge how many times our neighbor mows the lawn. We just don’t have the right or capability to judge properly.

If we fly across the planet to paddle or present then will purchasing offset credit be acceptable?

In a recent article in Scientific American (focused on global obesity by the way), called “Rational Atheism” by Michael Shermer, he is talking about the Science versus Religion debate. In it he quotes Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises who said, “An anti-something movement displays a purely negative attitudes. It has no chance whatever to succeed. . . People must fight for something that they want to achieve, not simply reject an evil, however bad it may be.” He also quotes Carl Sagan who said, “You can get into the habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it”.

See also ClimateCrisis.net

* the numbers. . remember this is a blog and not a scientific paper. The numbers here came from various commercial and governmental websites and are certainly up for debate.

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