With global warming, or is it really global heating, becoming more pronounced it is increasingly clear that we need to reduce our carbon emissions quickly and dramatically if we want to preserve the Earth in a habitable form.
Our descendants, including even our children and grandchildren, should be able to have a reasonable quality of life and one free from the suffering that will be caused by droughts, food shortages, the acidification of our oceans and rising sea levels.
According to the book “How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything,” each gallon of gasoline we consume directly adds 19.4 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere and each gallon of diesel 22.2 pounds. In actuality it is much more than that, because more CO2 is produced in the drilling, refining, and transporting of the oil before it reaches the pump. We are already at 396 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that number is rising rapidly. We should be at 350 ppm to avoid the worst of global warming, so every gallon we burn as individuals is very important.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no scientific data that breaks out carbon emissions by pleasure, but based on my own use and the observation of others, I estimate it to be at least 25 percent. Even if it is only 10 percent, given the seriousness of the situation, it should be factored into our decision making. It is time that we begin to ask ourselves what is really more important: our pleasure enhanced by the use of gasoline and diesel, or the life of the generations who are going to follow us?
Is it more important that we take a cruise on our beautiful oceans, even though a cruise ship only moves three feet with each gallon of diesel, or is it more important that we take an occasional sailing trip so that the life in our oceans is saved?
Is it more important that we take a trip to Boston to see a baseball game or attend a concert, or is it more important that we stay home and play with our children or grandchildren so that they too will be able to enjoy life?
Is it more important to fly to a foreign country to enjoy its culture or nature, or is it more important to vacation close to home so that other cultures can survive and we can learn more about the nature that is around us?
Is it more important to mow a three-acre lawn with a riding lawn mower because it looks nice, or is it more important to mow a small lawn with an electric or even hand mower so that more natural habitat can help bring back wildlife?
Is it more important to drive an SUV, truck or van because that is part of our 21st-century culture, or is it more important to invest some of our money in an all-electric vehicle that is actually fun to drive and will save money spent on gas and greatly reduce carbon emissions?
These are just some of the important questions we should now be asking ourselves every time we buy gas or diesel. The answer, of course, depends on our individual values. Is it just about us or is it also about compassion for other people and indeed all life?
George Plumb lives in Washington. He is executive director of Vermonters for Sustainable Population and a member of the Vermont Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.MORE IN Letters
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