Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting Around

SO MANY READERS HAVE ASKED about my carbon footprint that I thought a clean breast is in order. In personal life, I am better than most North Americans, emissions-wise, which is to say ecologically catastrophic but a little less so. In professional life, I am all bad. I travel frequently on jet planes; I drive many miles in rental cars (frequently upgraded to "mid-size" models, which I like); I stay in overheated and overcooled hotels; I eat room-service meals from frozen foods drawn from the far corners of the planet. I do these things in the name of environmental conservation, in the wobbly hope that profligacy now is a small price to pay for the low-carbon happiness that our work will bestow on the Twenty-Second Century. When Amory Lovins flies around the world to give talks on energy efficiency, he calculates how many flourescent lightbulbs he will have to induce his listeners to use for him to justify the CO2 emissions occasioned by his air travel. I am working on a similar kind of metric, to be announced at an appropriate time.

People In The Future – as we used to say – will probably be able to do all the things that I do now, but I bet there won't be as many options within reach of as many people. The most optimistic alternative-energy scenario will not allow non-VIPs to fly on planes anywhere near as much as we do now. Driving will cost a lot more. Heck, eating will cost a lot more. It may not be so bad. "Staying home and being decent," as Wendell Berry says, is basically a good idea. But still, our time here – this twilight of the Petroleum Age – has afforded a lot of unsustainable fun and diversions to about 500 million people or so. These days will be smothered in nostalgia in about fifty years.

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