Don’t carbon offset your guilty conscience September 5, 2007Posted by Andreas in Climate change, Environment, Global warming, holiday, Life, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
We’ll be spending two weeks with my parents in Gauteng this month and after considering our options have decided to fly up. I’m feeling decidedly guilty about that and am intend on taking the train next time.
You see, globally, air travel just happens to be the fastest growing source of anthropogenic climate change. George Monbiot estimates that one transatlantic flight basically accounts for a person’s rightful annual carbon emission share if we want to stop the planet from getting toasted.
When it’s feasible, taking your car is better, using public transport much better still, and staying at home is best! We know all this, but stop us from flying more and more every year it does not – airports are expanding around the world and apparently air passenger numbers have risen by over 6% in the first half of 2007.
And once again it’s just a small wealthy minority that’s doing the damage and those who can’t afford air tickets, even budget ones, bear the brunt. You fly, they die.
One of the solutions that’s being touted to overcome this growing problem is carbon off-setting.
Here’s how it works: You book a return ticket to romantic Niagara for you and your pink-haired aunt Colleen through an outfit like responsibletravel.com, you work out the amount of carbon dioxide your journey will generate and you pay someone like ClimateCare, Carbon Footprint or the CarbonNeutral Company a proportional amount which they will use to plant trees in a Third World country or hand out energy-saving light bulbs to the poor, and Bob’s your environmentally-friendly air travel uncle.
It doesn’t work, of course.
For one it’s the calculus of the privileged – a green pyramid scheme to appease our environmental sensibilities, which allows a small number of people to jet-set around the globe while the masses stay at home. Build-in inequality is a fundamental requirement.
As it turns out some people in the global South are already being shunted off their homes in order to accommodate environmentally-conscious First World travelers. Here’s a story about Ugandans who lost their land to carbon off-setting tree plantations and here’s one about one of a number of reports that suggest that planting trees is not going to work anyway…
So what are we to do. Travel less, of course! I know this will not be well received, but it’s a no-brainer and is in accordance with the stop-what-you’re-doing principle. It’s cheap and works every time.