Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Were You A Good Girl This Year?"

"He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows if you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good..."
"Do you think Santa's coming tonight?"
"I dunno."
"Why not? Were you a good girl this year?"
"Not really."
"Well I was mean to my Grandma and my dog, and I called my mom an 'idiot' a bunch of times."

This surprising and refreshingly honest confession came to me from my 4-year-old niece this past Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is when young children take stock of their transgressions (as is New Years Day for adults) and they ponder whether a certain fat man will eat their cookies and leave presents. As soon as this question came out of my mouth, however, I felt like I really had no right to ask it, because I don't really think that I've been a very good girl this year either.

Unintended Consequences
A few years ago I saw James Howard Kunstler speak about what he calls, "The Long Emergency." In summary, The Long Emergency is the coming challenges the developed world will face with declining world-wide production of petroleum, as demand for it inexorably increases. This will have ramifications in cost of goods, food production, transportation, manufacturing, home heating, and just about everything else that makes the developed world, well…developed. This, in combination with global climate change, means that relatively rapid changes in our behaviour and attitudes will be required. These are not easy changes either. These are changes like reduced air travel, fewer food choices, more expensive everything. Curmudgeon that I am, I don't think that the majority of the population will go there smilingly.

The unintended consequence of becoming familiar with The Long Emergency is that I am becoming more of a carbon hog than ever. Me, the long-term bike commuter, vegetarian, Carter-freezing-in-the-dark kWh miser, "close the damn refrigerator", and local-foodie. My dream list of things-to-do-before-I-die includes a lot of travel. Places like: Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Botswana, cross-Canada in a Westfalia (tick this one off) will not be practically affordable in the future. Combined with my health, I'm thinking "Let's go NOW!" Which also translates into "Let's use up as much petroleum as we can before others catch on that we're on the downslide from Peak Oil," or "Let's race to the bottom of the well," or, let's face it, "Let's trash the planet."

Sliding to the bottom

Lori's carbon emissions for 2009:
  • Flight to U.S.A. for Christmas: 0.5 Tonnes (metric tonnes) CO2
  • One half of 4-month cross-Canada Westfalia travel: 3.35 Tonnes CO2
  • Other Westfalia usage: 0.40 Tonnes CO2
  • Honda Civic local usage: 0.13 Tonnes CO2
  • One half of household energy usage (11,400 kWh/2): 0.11 Tonnes CO2
  • Etc (food, purchases etc.): 3.13*
  • Total: 7.62 Tonnes CO2

We are considering retrofitting our home to become energy neutral, but our home energy use pales in comparison to our travel.

Even Gingerbread Houses Aren't Net Zero
While I was in the US I had a meeting with a designer/facilitator/innovator of net-zero energy homes. He flew to Washington DC and China this year to launch a new program for retrofitting existing building stock in the U.S. Jack is constantly flying to various places in Canada to teach people about LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.) A fellow Bike to Work director just got home from Hawaii.

None of us have been very good this year. So what can I say about my behaviour?
"Santa, I was a pretty good girl, will you bring me a new planet?"

or maybe I just get a $100,000 Tesla


at the end of the day it IS all about her...

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