A narrative essay by – Heather Spoonheim

I often encounter people who find it offensive that I haven’t subscribed to the Climate Change bandwagon. To be frank, that is where the conversation typically ends, because such people rarely have anything more to bring to the discussion than the average theist. The problem that always arises in those situations is the climate change disciple’s inability to differentiate between Climate Change science and the Climate Change movement.

The science behind Climate Change is sound enough, and the predictions seem rather certain, even though admittedly grim, so who am I to question them? Well I don’t question them, actually, but few Climate Change disciples are capable of engaging in enough rational discussion to actually figure that out. The issue that seems to set them off is my failure to perceive virtue in running around screaming that the sky is going to fall.

The line I most often hear is, “We need to take action now!” That’s fair enough, but I feel that I’ve been taking action for 20 years. I’ve been a minimalist for most of my adult life and have, as such, maintained a very small carbon footprint. To that end, I’ve driven the same 4 cylinder jeep YJ for over 19 years, resulting in fewer cars being produced. In those 19 years, I’ve racked up 125,000 kilometers on my jeep, which is less than most North Americans drive in 3 years, resulting in less fossil fuel combustion. Even the electricity that I use is over 90% hydroelectric. Furthermore, having had no children, my contribution to carbon dioxide emissions ends when I expel my last breath.

Given all of these things, any rational person should understand why I am unmoved by Climate Change disciples who load their children into SUV’s to go on unnecessary shopping trips to stores that sell superfluous items like battery operated cork screws. The irony of these things never seems to sink into the mind of Climate Change disciples, however. On the few occasions that I have been able to finish explaining that I restricted my carbon footprint long before they ever knew what a carbon footprint was, their anxiety actually seemed to escalate. The next message of salvation that typically flies out of their mouths is, “Not just us, the big corporations need to be stopped!”

The rationality of the above proclamation has always eluded me. I have many reasons why I think ‘big corporations’ are ‘bad’, but none of them are based on the state of our environment. The Climate Change disciple’s concept of ‘big corporations’ seems to be that of an alien entity that has landed on our planet to set up big carbon dioxide generating stations. There are no carbon dioxide generating stations being operated by aliens though; those stations are, in point of fact, factories that are run by consumer dollars.

Factories don’t produce goods for shipment to alien worlds; they produce goods to be purchased by human consumers. If you are a consumer of goods, then you are paying to have factories output carbon dioxide in exchange for the goods they produce. In this way, big corporations, in and of themselves, have no carbon footprint at all. This, however, is exactly where the religious aspect of the Climate Change movement is revealed. Rather than atoning for their own sins, Climate Change disciples seek absolution by nailing ‘big corporations’ to an imaginary cross. No climate change disciple that I have encountered to date has ever let me complete the vocalization of this blasphemy, however.

Some environmentalists have listened quite attentively to my thoughts on this matter, and for the most part they are very receptive. Typically our discussions develop into debates over the potential of reducing our carbon footprints by way of emerging technologies. I quite enjoy such discussions because they at least recognize the causes of Climate Change rather than declaring dogmatically that unquestioning belief is the solution. Only those who are willing to engage in such discussions can ever come to understand just how heavily the odds are stacked against us.

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Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 6, 2012 at 11:02pm

Some incredible breakthrough in energy storage technology would be a super game changer indeed - allowing us to really exploit solar/wind like never before.  Clean, sustainable energy of any kind is desperately needed.  Nukes are likely an option - but we still seem unable to make them truly safe - although I'm willing to keep trying.

The biggest problem we face, as near as I can see, is that petrol is still so damn cheap - cheaper than coca cola around here, at least.  To really make a difference in our contribution to CO2 emissions, we need incredibly radical change - we need emissions to drop, rapidly, not to decelerate their increases at some point 5 or 10 years in the future.  I just don't think it will happen.  Bleh.

Comment by SteveInCO on March 6, 2012 at 11:07pm

I am told by someone who I am sure wouldn't lie to me--but may be very much mistaken--that cars running off of IC engines lose 85% of the energy in the gasoline to heat.  So he is big on electric cars.  But we are back to that battery issue.  They weigh a ton for the energy they store, they die quickly, and in cold weather (something of a consideration for both of us) the range drops.  Also, for long trips, the lengthy charge time is a killer.  I can gas up in ten minutes but if I have to stop for several hours.... non starter!  Now if you come up with something that can get an 85% charge in mere minutes, that would go a long way towards solving the problem.  I'd forego "topping off" on a road trip if it took me three extra hours.

Comment by SteveInCO on March 6, 2012 at 11:13pm

Hmmm... I left out a step of his reasoning, which was that coal plants burn cleaner and less CO2 would have to be emitted by the coal plant to charge the car than to burn gas in a car.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 6, 2012 at 11:21pm

Yeah, it's a problem in several directions.  Batteries could be exchangeable, perhaps, on some kind of lease program, so you pull into a filling station to swap out, which could take ten minutes - but all those damn batteries would require a lot of nasty materials for construction.  Not sure what we can do, but I know that our energy consumption habits are going to change, whether we like it or not.


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