That’s the unfortunate reaction to a quote I received recently from a “green” moving company. Offset this, reduce that, blah blah blah … the bottom line was we couldn’t really afford to assuage our carbon footprint guilt when we considered all the other costs involved in moving.
But this led me to think, why do we care about our impact on the environment? After all, most of us don’t have kids, so there isn’t really a future generation for us to worry about directly. The “children’s children” argument is only ever going to be at least one degree of separation away from us.
So what do we have left? Selfless concern for others? Possibly, but more likely we do it to salve our collective consciences and make us feel slightly better about our rapacious greed. And as a result of being such good, and green, boys and girls, we are able to feel slightly smug and self-satisfied.
That on its own isn’t really incentive enough to make major decisions, though, is it? When my partner and I moved to Brighton originally from London almost two years ago, we were well aware that commuting by train for work was going to have an effect on our carbon footprint. For us to offset our annual 3.07 tonnes of carbon released as a result of this travel would cost £49 through “Certified Emissions Reduction”; not an earth-shattering sum, but it has to come from somewhere. So, having thought about offsetting, and meaning to get around to it some time, we … haven’t. Yet more good intentions with no impetus to follow through.
Of course, trains aren’t the bogeymen of public transport; in fact, they’re considered relatively green. The real moustache-twirling villain of the piece is the aeroplane or, more accurately, incredibly low airfares. Stupendously low. Ridiculously low!
When it costs more to travel to the airport than it does subsequently to fly off to sunnier climes, something must be a little skew-iff!
However, after over a half a century of easier and cheaper flights, there has developed a sense of entitlement to such opportunities for travel. A presumption, the denial of which would cause people to feel aggrieved, regardless of the fact that such possibilities are a relatively recent development, undreamt of in earlier generations. The vast majority of people feel they could no more do without their fortnight of fun in the sun than they could water, oxygen, food or, say, a double soya no foam decaf lattè.
So, how do we move forward, past indolence and indignation?
The only method certain to achieve its goals is to take away the responsibility from the individual, much as it may sit ill with the British psyche. A universal carbon tax, which reflects the true cost, is the answer. Hitting people’s wallets, and showing separately how much the carbon which their activities generate costs them in cold, hard cash, would be guaranteed to reduce emissions. After all, you’re less likely to make those unnecessary trips if you look at the price and think: