Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Random green thoughts today

I'm know I'm preaching to the choir here when I encourage you to go green wherever you can. You know it's important, I know it's important. So why does our society make it so damn hard to do?

My biggest issue is that I have a terrible commute to work. I'm trying to do everything I can to make less of an impact on the earth, but I'm constrained with this commute. I live about 40 miles from where I work. But I live in one large city, and work in another, on the East Coast. You might think I would be able to take public transportation -- especially since both cities are adjacent to Interstate 95, a major north-south highway. You would be wrong.

Yesterday after work I had a flat tire coming out of the parking garage. I won't bore you with all the details, but basically because I never got around to getting my spare repaired, I was screwed. So I sat in a Merchant's Tire store for 2 hours (don't ask why it took so long -- they lost my car key -- just know that they didn't charge me in the end), but I was fortunate to have one of my new books. Yes -- see how interestingly life works out sometimes?

In Original Zinn, Howard Zinn talks about the lack of a motive for corporations to do anything about problems like pollution because there's no profit in it.
That profit motive means that homes will not be built for low-income people because there is no money to be made that way. Teachers' salaries will not be doubled, as they should be. The rivers, lakes, and oceans will not be cleaned up because there is no profit in it. We are not going to curtail the emissions from cars that are polluting the atmosphere and destroying the environment for ourselves and our children because that will cut into the profits of the automobile manufacturers.
We live in a capitalist society, and the profit motive is an ugly reality. I'm not saying we throw out our economic system, but I am saying that we need to look at the harsh side effects of it. No one seems to want to do that anymore. Back when the first Earth Day was celebrated, 38 years ago today, many decried it as a socialist movement. The fact that April 22, 1970, was the Vladmir Lenin's 100 birthday surely must mean something, right?

The movement today must begin at home. It must begin with me and with you doing what we can to make a difference. Our society has insulated us against the realities of pollution int he world and we think as long as we change our lightbulbs we've done our part. You know what? I change my lightbulbs, I recycle, I carpool, I eat meat only occasionally, I turn the heat down in the winter and up in the summer, and look what I found out when I calculated my carbon footprint:

Please look again at that last figure.


Mary Ellen said...

That was really interesting. I came out better than I thought I would but worse than I'd like to be. The biggest hit I took was because I drive an SUV (8 years old and I can't afford a new car), mostly because I have to drive my mom and mother-in-law everywhere and I also bring my dog to do her pet therapy at the hospital every week. She doesn't fit in a compact car.

My numbers for a three person household is:


"Your estimated greenhouse gas emissions are 42 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year, which is below the U.S. national average."

I have to work on that...

Sue J said...

The driving is what really does it. We really have to insist on better public transportation and more fuel efficient cars for when we must drive.

Me said...

My commute isn't as far as yours but I drive a 12 year old truck that only gets about 17mpg. Can't afford a new one. And I don't live in or near a city so ther's no public transport at all here. I do everything I can think of at home to reduce/reuse/recycle but like you said, it's the driving that kills us.

Sue J said...

Ouch -- that's a lot of gas, ME! I feel your pain (at the pump)!

And unfortunately, I agree with Howard Zinn that because there's no profit to be made in it, the auto makers won't do anything to change the mpgs for the affordable cars.

You know, there's actually plenty of oil available right now. These high prices aren't about supply or demand. It's about the investment fund industry ....

Mary Ellen said...

suej- Like you said, we just don't have much public transportation. My husband has to drive very far north of us for his job, it takes about an hour (one way) on a good day. He used to work only 20 minutes from our house but switched jobs when the research was drying up, and he had to go to another lab. We didn't want to move because the kids were all settled in their schools (ever try talking a teenager into moving in her Sophomore year of H.S.? Yikes!) Also, we would have been close to O'Hare Airport if we moved near to his job...noisy and the resale on houses is pretty tough because of the planes flying over every few minutes. It wasn't worth the hassle, at the time.

He has a really small car, which is great on gas. I only use my car for errands and vacations. It's almost $60 to fill the tank.

Sue J said...

Mary Ellen, I know -- I have heard the helpful suggestion "Move closer to where you work"

But I can't afford to live any closer to where I work!

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

And don't forget, EAT LESS MEAT!! That and, yes, let's double-up our efforts for solar energy; a much, much, better option that ethanol.

Mauigirl said...

My carbon for our household for the year was 65 lbs! We are struck down because DH commutes to Philadelphia 3 days a week. And our cars are not hybrids...