Monday, December 12, 2005


Carbon Footprints: reducing them is the challenge

The Guardian editorial today put it starkly:

'It has taken more than 12 years to get 36 countries to just cut their emissions by about 5% and worldwide emissions are still rising steeply. The next negotiations will have to consider how to get countries to reduce their emissions ... by 30-50% within a generation.'

So the easy bit has been done; from now on it's a major change in individual lifestyles which has to occur. Most people I know drive cars without thinking of let alone calculating the 'carbon cost'involved. Moreover, they happily fly around the world, seldom stopping to think of the damage to future generations: their children's children, future citizens of the planet. Jackie Ashley's column, also in The Guardian, suggested we all have to face the prospect of 'slightly duller lives'. This means in practice: not so much travel; not so much eating out; not so much driving and flying; but more walking; more exercise in general; higher costs for luxuries; less 'comfy' over-heated houses and more uncomfortable sweating instead of air-conditioned houses and cars. In other words, a life more resembling that of our great-grandparents in the nineteenth century before the outpourings of greenhouse gases became a growing problem.

All this will be very difficult for my generation: the baby boomers. We had it hard early on in the fifties and early sixties when salaries were low and cost of living high. Britain in the years of Macmillan and Wilson was drab and a bit joyless in material terms; we all hoped for and expected things to get better. That they did and that we got so used to an improving lifestyle defines the problem. We have got used to the good life and so have our children. Weaning ourselves and them off it will be one hell of a job.

This is where the political, to paraphrase Germaine Greer, really does become the personal. Can we do it? As a middle-aged old codger I will have less trouble than those of my contemporaries who are richer and more habituated to the expensive things in life. Walking rather than driving is what I do now and eating for the most part inexpensively is not a saving -the- planet directed strategy; more of a simple necessity. Denying themselves ourselves our 'just reward' for earlier privations and subsequent 'hard graft' will not be easy for any of us but unless we, and especially our American cousins, can hack it-and remember now it's official, even the US does not cavil- the world has no future.

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