Random Play by Graham Reid


It's Not Easy Being Green-ish

When you do wrong you might as well just ‘fess up. So I admit it: this week I have increased, rather than decreased, my carbon footprint. And I am stricken with all the appropriately guilty feelings.

Today -- after three years as a stay-a-bed freelancer; watching Martha and Dr Phil; and shifting cocktail hour to the rather more sensible time of noon, then to 10am -- I have rejoined the workforce. Only part-time mind you, I’m not entirely stupid.

Anyway, what this means is that three days a week I will be leaving the safety and comfort of my own home (ie. records, books, CDs and DVDs) and take a bus into the city. And of course my carbon footprint will increase accordingly.

Next time you see footage of a slice of ice falling off Antarctica you’ll know who to blame, right?

Okay, it is only one stage on public transport from my place to where I need to go -- but at a time when we are being bashed and battered by carbon footprint guilt -- and God forbid having our “awareness” raised by the likes of Madonna -- I’m feeling something of a traitor to whole cause.

But I’m starting to think that's the idea of the whole media maelstrom around this issue. Everyone is a fair target when it comes to the carbon footprint, everyone has to justify themselves.

I’m not convinced that asking the likes of Jaquie Brown or some politico what they are doing to “make a difference” is much use at all. No slight intended towards these good people -- but don’t you just lie when you are asked about what worthy things you do? Especially if it is for public consumption.

“Oh, I recycle paper, have cut down on plastic bags, and we are growing our own veggies this year. Or at least will be when we can wade through the slush that constitutes our backyard right now.”

And as to the whole “what more could you do”? Well, there is always more anyone can do. The question is will you? “And may we come by the house unexpectedly and just check?”

My feeling right now is that the “carbon footprint” issue is becoming a construct by which we are starting to measure others -- be they individuals or businesses -- without taking what I like to call "the “holistic view".

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a naysayer about global warming and so on -- in fact I am almost prepared, as Jaquie so marvellously put it in today’s Herald, to “believe what I am told by Al Gore”.

But there seems to me a culture of blackmail and holier-than-thou coercion gaining momentum at the moment.

We’re a pretty accusatory culture at the best of times (solo mothers and immigrants might enlighten you on this point), so I am starting to enjoy seeing letters to the editor pointing out that some big building had its lights on at 10pm the other night, or that there was a bus standing on K Rd with its engine running.

Dob in your neighbour, folks.

I don’t doubt that the people who build aircraft and automobiles -- just as those who manufacture certain food products -- just add the word “green” or “eco” to their brand as a feel-good selling point. So such things should be scrutinised (as indeed they are).

But the fact is people still gotta fly and drive.

Not everyone getting on an aircraft is making a frivolous flight (you know, going on a well-earned holiday with the kids to somewhere warm and away from this god-awful weather), just as not every politician who flies to some conference could have done it just as well by having a chat on the phone. Not every driver with no passenger is wilfully wasting fossil fuels, they might just have somewhere distant to go and no other feasible method of getting there.

My guess is soon we will be seeing the resurrection of those Second World War posters, “Is your journey really necessary?“

It’s a fair question to ask but, just as some would have us believe we could all walk or take bikes to work, the issues are more complex. Much as we might like it because such immediacy makes life simpler, not every issue can be reduced to slogans, posters and quick quizzes in a newspaper.

All these things help, but they also create a climate in which discussion becomes reductive. Four wheels bad, two wheels good.

Anyway, before I have to endure the opprobrium of eco-bullies for sounding like a dissenting voice in the current climate (which of course might just prove my point), I hasten to ensure you I am not entirely a lost cause on my own home front.

My wife started a new job today. To offset my increased carbon footprint I’m making her walk to work.

Just doin’ my bit, folks.

PS: There’s interesting and different music at Elsewhere -- and also a new section entitled Absolute Elsewhere for your amusement and enlightenment. Enjoy.

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