I had a good conversation the other day with Alisa Gravitz, the Executive Director of Co-Op America, regarding their promotion of carbon offsets. They do mean well, and it’s certainly good to get people to calculate their carbon footprints to be aware of their emissions. But I remain unconvinced about the merits of the offsetting craze. The offset industry in general tacitly endorses emitting CO2, and distracts people from a necessary behavioural and political paradigm shift. For example, the new online carbon calculator, ZeroFootprint,
asks you what kind of car you drive and how many times a year you fly- they assume you must own a car and you must fly at least once a year. I realize this is indeed the case for most of us- but in neglecting to consider the growing number who are eschewing fossil fuels in the design of their web site, they are part of the big machine perpetuating carbon intensive social norms, thereby doing a dastardly disservice to the cause of climate control. As you begin to understand when you watch the cheatneutral.com film allowing people to ‘offset’ their sins simply leads to the temptation to sin, and on and on. Guilt is a powerful force for change. We shouldn’t be so quick to attempt to alleviate it.
At the moment I am busily preparing some transport policy papers, but in the meantime, enjoy some good links. The PBS documentary is not to be missed. The cheatneutral film and website was done by friends of my friend Lewis, who live in Wales:
CheatNeutral.com: the film
GREAT Frontline (PBS) Documentary on Climate Politics in the US
Just in time for Bike to Work Day: