Calculess

carbon-footprint-1
"I might be damned whatever tradeoff I choose."

'They' say that the size of my personal carbon footprint depends upon the tradeoffs I resolve, a series of this or that choices. Many of the choices come cloaked, relying upon me to be alert and aware and present enough to realize in a narrow moment that I'm supposed to be making a choice there. Like most everyone, I live much more automatically than this prescription relies upon me living. I only rarely think twice and even less often ruminate much on whatever choice I've already made, each completed action a sunk cost more than a lesson truly learned. Most of my carbon emissions result from me flipping a bloodless switch. Even so,I know myself to be a serial carbon emitter of the first order in spite (and sometimes because) of my deeply held concern about our precious climate. I'm good as far as that goes, but I'm fairly certain that it's not nearly good enough to matter.

Look, I'd take public transportation if it was available, but it's not.
I could not live with myself if I drove a diesel vehicle or owned two stroke engine-powered yard equipment. I reuse and recycle more than most but it's still hardly enough. This morning, The Muse needed freezer bags so she could preserve those twenty pounds of cherries. I volunteered to fetch them, a quick Sunday morning sixteen mile round trip on the interstate, during which the Schooner exhaled about ten pounds of CO2 into our atmosphere. Just driving leftover plastic bags down to the recycling bin produces another ten pounds of CO2. I might be damned whatever tradeoff I choose.

Now that civilization has advanced to the point where we can conveniently calculate almost anything, we seem most capable of creating new reasons to embarrass ourselves. We might create unfair comparisons, though, since we're not purely the rational beings for which calculating might mistake us as being and which we might aspire to become. I cannot resolve my deepening complicity by more carefully calculating the size of my carbon footprint. I can creep up toward the edge of justification but find myself unable to consummate my aspiration. I continue to do what I can and wallow in my ultimate futility.

My errand took me to the Target® where I re-experienced that sense that everything I saw there was in an inevitable evolution toward the municipal dump. I imagine that in the four short years of our tenancy here in the Villa Vatta High, I've produced enough garbage to more than fill every room from ceiling to floor, and that the dump now holds that trash for eternity. If I multiply that pile by the 385,000 people who moved into this area in just the last decade, I imagine an exponentially-growing dump and wonder where we'll next partition space. Eternity's a very long time.

I usually choose to wait in the car whenever The Muse goes shopping, except as I reported yesterday, when we're shopping for food. I almost always borrow books from the library or, more recently, check out web-resident audio books from that same library, for these leave no footprint that I can see. I cannot shake the deep feelings of complicity whenever I buy some consumer good. For these, The Muse and I most often look through estate sales or the local Goodwill. This way, we can add an extra bounce to the goods' inevitable degradation.

I wonder if my deep sense of complicity is a purely modern phenomenon. Did my horse-drawn forebears worry about the detritus their living left behind them? The traces of their passages seem less burdensome somehow, though old dumps reveal still readable newspapers after decades sealed off from the elements. I figure that future generations will mine our garbage dumps for rare materials. That too-casually discarded aluminum foil will probably last a few centuries and at some point be worth recovering. I could save it all in a big knotty ball and bequeath it to my grandchildren, I guess, creating a gift perhaps only their great great grandchildren would appreciate. Living brings complicity, however you calculate.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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