A recent article in AXIOS by Amy Harder titled “The carbon footprints of the rich and activist”, discusses some attitudes about individual’s views of their own carbon footprint.
Not all carbon footprints are created equally.
Driving the news: Famous, rich and activist people face acute scrutiny given their ability to influence the masses. With that in mind, I explored the travel and consumption habits of four notable people supporting action on climate change: Greta Thunberg, Bill Gates, Bill McKibben and Al Gore.
Why it matters: Individual behavior tackling climate change is getting greater attention as inaction on the matter persists among governments. A recent peer-reviewed study found that people are more likely to listen to others calling for action on climate change if they personally have lower carbon footprints.“The carbon footprints of the rich and activist” by Amy Harder, AXIOS, Dec 9, 2019.
This has been a lifelong challenge for me. In my mid 20’s I gave up having a personal automobile. I know there are many other sources of my own greenhouse gas emissions, but not having a car was something I felt I had the most control over, with the most direct impact on my carbon footprint. There were additional beneficial effects, such as opportunities to take photos as I walked, and greatly improving my running, since this became one of my primary forms of transportation.
I know a great many people who live in areas with good public transit systems also don’t have personal automobiles. Indianapolis has a city bus system and has just opened a rapid transit bus line. But Indianapolis sprawls over a large area, resulting in less than optimal coverage of the city by the buses. The schedules are also a challenge. Most buses don’t run after 11 or 12 pm, and there may be as much as two hours between buses on certain routes. Some don’t even run on Sundays.
But between learning how to be careful of the bulk and weight of what I would walk home with from the grocery store and how to dress for all kinds of weather, including rain and snow storms, living without a car worked out.
I have been disappointed that I haven’t convinced anyone else to give up their car. There have been multiple occasions when the subject comes up, when someone at the hospital would ask if I had ridden my bike to work that day. Or when planning for travel everyone seems to know I try not to drive.
After a number of discussions about driving at my home Quaker meeting, Bear Creek, we wrote a Minute that was then approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) we called “Ethical Transportation”. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/?s=ethical
Ethical TransportationIowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017
Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles. We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult. This is even more challenging in rural areas. But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.
Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public
transportation systems. These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help. We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc. We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.
One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation. Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles. Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness. This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness. We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths. We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.
I am well aware that despite efforts to reduce my carbon footprint by reducing driving, not flying and reducing meat in my diet, my carbon foot print is many times greater than those living in many other countries.
We can no longer wait for government action. We can stop driving, stop flying and reduce consumption of beef, etc, now.