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How low can you go?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Michael Greenwell       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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I think I have discovered the current limits of liberal ambition.

I do these "-How big is your carbon footprint?' tests from time to time. I don't do it as a salve to my conscience or anything like that but more to see what questions they are asking. The reason for that is the old adage about garbage in, garbage out.

I "-pass' most of these tests although I am sometimes informed I have a couple of bad habits. That fact is not something I need a computer generated response to tell me.

However, I am not sure what the value of a "-pass' is on these tests.

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Certainly I am better with this sort of thing than I used to be. I almost never take plastic bags from shops. I try to fix things rather than throw them away. I try never to buy disposable items. I try to buy locally produced food and all of these things. If I had a garden or anything approaching a permanent residence I would certainly try to grow my own food.

One of these tests told me that I live within sustainable means. Perhaps they were referring to the 1.8 global hectares per person that is the minimum to sustain current lifestyles and that my lifestyle could be sustained with that amount, or just less than that amount of land?

I wasn't ecstatic about this. Nor was I even mildly gratified because I have started to think about this in the context of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take and the idea of doing no harm.

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My "-pass' on these tests does not mean I am doing no harm, it means doing the absolute minimum required to postpone annihilation.

Operating at this level would be akin to a doctor poisoning a patient and keeping them at death's door for years but just giving them enough of the antidote from time to time to keep them alive. Is this something of which the doctor should be proud? Also, I am not certain that a doctor would have the skill to do this indefinitely.

Is this the suggestion as to how we should manage our planet from now on? Do we have the skill to do this indefinitely? I suggest you do a search on the words "-feedback loop' to find out.

We are aiming incredibly low if all we want to achieve is keeping ourselves teetering on the brink of disaster.

Even better than just doing no harm, humans have the ability to actually improve the landscape around them, for both humans and animals. Instead it seems that even many of the people who supposedly want to do something about this crisis (not the ones who are paid to deny it) are concentrating on simply "-not f*cking things up too much."

The "-not f*cking things up too much" strategy is an interesting one. Imagine it is your child's first day of school and the teacher boldly stated to you as you say goodbye at the gate, "don't worry, I will teach your child some things that are downright wrong but not so much that they can't function."

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It sounds absurd in that context but that is what we do all the time. Carbon trading for example, means you are allowed to "-f*ck things up' just so much. We hear about nuclear power stations that operate within legal guidelines about how much radiation they can put into the atmosphere. It doesn't seem to work of course, given that there very often seems to be abnormally high cancer rates near nuclear power stations but nevertheless, we have decided upon a legal limit of "-how much they can f*ck things up" and then they go and operate right on that borderline, with occasional steps over it, to see if we notice.

Sport metaphors seem to be inappropriately used all the time these days.  Wars seem to "-kick-off' rather than be initiated at the behest of belligerent and bellicose politicians and commanders. So I will leave you with a sport metaphor here:-

How many times have you seen a football(soccer)/basketball/other sport team set out to nullify their opponents rather than have a positive strategy and at the end of the game it was nothing more than their very lack of ambition that allowed the other side to defeat them?


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Scotland's Michael Greenwell has worked, at various times, as a university tutor, a barman, a DJ ("not a very good one," he clarifies), an office lackey, supermarket worker, president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian, a volunteer worker in Nepal during the civil war there, and "some other things that were too tedious to mention." Nowadays, he explains, "I am always in (more...)

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