Shrinking My Carbon Footprint

The spectacle last week of my tax dollars hard at work came as a timely and necessary salve for my troubled soul.

Readers of this space know that I’ve taken repeated umbrage in recent months with the current government’s proposal to renovate its tax-collecting regime. With the stated goal of “leveling the playing field” for all Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have in essence dictated that the Canada Revenue Agency reduce its tax form, functionally albeit not in length, to two solitary and acquisitive lines:

1. How much did you earn last year?
2. Send it in.

Exceptions abound, of course, for those with trust funds, offshore tax havens, and French villas. I’m not pointing fingers.

I’ve not been alone in my irritation and in my carping around this issue, suffice it to say.  But now much is forgiven. Now, at the very least, I have new and solid evidence that the great mounds of cash heaved in Ottawa’s direction by industrious Canadians are being deployed with parsimony and shrewdness.

The storied Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, funded by your tax dollars and mine, has extended its brilliant track record of delivering only the “news you can use”, in this case tackling the Gordian knot of “climate change” and drilling incisively to the nub of the matter.  After briefly reviewing the latest in “carbon footprint science”, CBC reporter Emily Chung cheerfully offered up a suite of concrete, practical solutions whereby we can mitigate the myriad destructive aspects to our sooty presence on this blue planet.

Firstly:  eat a plant-based diet. Banish from your spacious appetites the succulent tenderloins, char-broiled rib-eyes, crispy bacon strips and breaded drumsticks that have sustained us and our forebears for so many centuries.  Henceforth these meats are to be known simply and honestly as dead and decaying animal flesh, cruelly harvested from living and breathing animal hosts who are themselves destroying our planet with their flatulence and enormous methane-emitting dung piles.

Secondly:  endeavor to sustain your dog or your cat on a low protein diet. This prescription, although logical (see meat, above), strikes me as overly timid. Far better, it seems to me, to knock the critter-carbon-footprint to zero by foregoing pet ownership in the first place.  And, since a Swedish study recently confirmed that people live up to 20% longer if they have a dog, getting rid of Fido should have the added benefit of shortening the carbonaceous existence of his human master.  That, my friends, is what we call a “win, win”.

Thirdly, as should be self-evident, get rid of your carbon-belching automobile. If you can’t walk or cycle or hopscotch to work or to play, and if you don’t own a magic carpet or some other mode of green conveyance, feel free to buy an electric car.  As you know, modern-day messiah Elon Musk is rescuing our tottering planet one Tesla at a time. (In the interests of keeping this brief essay cleanly on point, I’ll ignore the uncomfortable bits, such as from whence will come all the voltage that must be generated to charge all those millions and millions of batteries.)

Fourthly:  avoid air travel. The “stay-cation” must become our new normal; no need to jet off to Mexico or Hawaii or Tahiti or Thailand for needed rest, relaxation, and exploration; there’s plenty to do and discover in our own backyards. That many of those far-flung destinations look to tourism to sustain their economic health is not our concern: we all need to make our sacrifices.

This adjustment will cut pretty close to home, mind you, for our Prime Minister and his team of climate warriors, 300 of whom accompanied him to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, at an estimated cost of 280 tonnes of CO2.  Add in perennial governmental subsidies to aircraft-maker Bombardier, the PM’s holiday excursion (with entourage) last year to the private island of the Aga Khan, and so on, and so on – you get the picture.  I can only assume that (another) teary national apology will soon be issued for “historical” indiscretions, this time for the belatedly-realized injuries inflicted on the tender globe by wanton carbon-spewing government actions.

It goes almost without saying that rocket travel should be utterly verboten, which may or may not be music to the ears of ex-astronaut and newly minted Governor-General of Canada Julie Payette. As a vocal advocate of climate change science, and robust heckler  of “deniers”, she is undoubtedly plagued by regret and beset by shame each time she reflects upon her earlier escapades, and in particular the two occasions wherein she escaped the bonds of Earth aboard the space shuttle.

According to NASA’s own numbers, the shuttle’s two solid rocket boosters at lift-off consume 11,000 pounds of fuel per second – two million times the rate at which fuel is burned by the average family car – in the process of generating horsepower equivalent to 400,000 subcompact cars.

Sorta makes the enviro-damage done by Fido’s beef-based kibble-and-bits seem rather modest.

Perhaps it’s best that we mothball our space exploration efforts, until such time that we have at our disposal solar-power-enhanced windmills powerful enough to cleanly blow our rockets into that great beyond.

Fifthly, and finally—and this is a biggie— have one less kid. This strategy represents, by a wide margin, the richest opportunity for non-astronaut earthlings to de-carbonize the planet, at almost 59 tonnes of carbon saved per year (living “car-free” by comparison only saves 2.4 tonnes of CO2).

As for those children already on the ground, whose blackened little footprints we have no choice but to contend with, Ms. Chung helpfully references climate warrior Keya Chatterjee, who chronicles her heroic efforts to reduce the planetary damage of her first- and only-born in The Zero Footprint Baby.  It strikes me, however, upon reviewing her efforts, that it’s all just so much work—it seems infinitely simpler to get to “zero footprint baby” by having no baby at all (see “Fido”, above).

Ms. Chung’s piece surfaced in my consciousness a September letter to the New York Times that I had squirreled away in my files, penned by one Ed Salisbury of Santa Monica, California, and written in response to the Times offering “Your Questions About Climate Change, Answered”.  Opined the good Mr. Salisbury:  “The lifestyle adjustments needed to reverse climate change should be emphasized. These adjustments are well known, including not having more than one child; minimizing consumption of meat and fish; living close to where you work (and/or using mass transit); not having dogs or cats as pets (which also consume resources); and supporting sustainable practices and policies. None of these adjustments represent hardship, only a shift in our existing attitudes. Individually and together we can defeat the enemy, which is us.”

The enemy is us.

I think I’ll issue a note to Liberal hero Jean Chrétien to solicit his thoughts on the matter.  Mr. Chrétien was elected ten times to Canada’s House of Commons, held almost every major cabinet office, and in October 1993 was elected as his nation’s twentieth prime minister.  He was also the eighteenth of nineteen children.  A conversation with Céline Dion, famed Canadian songstress and youngest of fourteen children, might be similarly instructive.  I’m a tad sensitive on this point, I admit, clocking in as I did as kiddo number eleven in a train of twelve.

With these useful CBC “guideposts for living” freshly summarized and top-of-mind, I climbed into my vehicle last Friday morning to haul my four kids to school, stopping briefly on the way to collect my neighbour’s three youngsters.  (They all attend the same French immersion school –  it’ll be of immense use to them to be able to smoke pot in both official languages, one day.)   I felt like an eco-criminal, barreling down the road in my gas-guzzling Suburban with seven planet-destroying children inside, a micro-climate of warming enveloping us as I drove.

Then it occurred to me that the real instigator of this current calamity is American Henry Ford, the reckless entrepreneur who pioneered affordable gasoline-powered transport for the plebs by mass-producing the Model T Ford.  Mr. Ford’s contemporaries in slapdash inventiveness, Orville and Wilbur Wright, had the audacity to successfully marry a gasoline-powered engine to their nascent airplane, and the rest is history.  Viewed through the unforgiving lens of retrospect, both Mr. Ford and the Wright brothers are guilty of immoral hubris, and they shall certainly be tried one day, in absentia and postmortem, for their crimes against the universe.

Of course, if I could but thrust my trembling hands back through the millennia and squeeze them tightly around the scrawny neck of the caveman who foolishly invented the wheel, the glowing global-warming menace would be strangled in its infancy.  But absent a suitable carbon-neutral time-travel conveyance we must settle for more immediate solutions—fortunately we have Mothership CBC  to lead us.

The restoration of our world will be gradual.  Our learning curve will be steep.  It’s not as simple, after all, as re-awakening our ancient hunter-gatherer skills; “gather” away, but the “hunter” part is a non-starter – no meat, remember?  But by limiting ourselves to one child per family and thereby halving our numbers each generation, we will greatly accelerate our remedial efforts, eventually extinguishing in its entirety the ruinous and parasitic human race.

Then, at long last, unencumbered by homo sapiens, and as her skies clear and her forests regrow and her waters are purified, Mother Earth shall return to her original glory, slowly spinning on her axis and rotating about her star, safe and secure among the trillions upon trillions of sister specks in our cosmos.

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