Americans use a whole lot of energy in living our lives, in following our decadent pursuits, and despite Global Warming, we show no signs of changing our ways, grasping and implementing the concept of conservation of the world's natural resources, including specifically our use of energy/electricity. Instead, as we drive our Hummers the two blocks to get our Star Bucks double latte mocha cherry jubilee surprise on the way to the Pilate studio, we look for Green Placebo's, easy fixes to reduce our carbon footprints, assuage our green guilt. Sadly, corporate America is all too happy to give us that placebo, and in giving it to us, they have us paying the way for them to OWN America and the world's green infrastructure, and that needs to change.
Give the devil his due...how brilliant it is that some smart individuals saw the marketing possibility of Green Guilt, and created a product that customers would buy that would allow them (companies) to amass fortunes, allow them to own the very infrastructure that will drive the newly budding green economy of the world. Enter Carbon Offsets. To understand Carbon Offsets, to in fact sell the concept of purchasing carbon offsets, we first have to understand carbon footprints, and what our own personal carbon footprint is.
A carbon footprint is a numerical representation that human activities have on climate. Being more specific, carbon footprints represent the total amount of greenhouse gases produced (measured in units of carbon dioxide), is a measure of the impact we make individually on the earth living our lifestyles. Many activities and products we buy generate carbon emissions, which contribute to accelerating global warming and climate change. So, by creating an index (carbon footprint) by which to measure our individual contribution to Global Warming, some wise souls have created a new sin to add to the list of things we should feel guilty about... pollution. If you are looking for biblical instruction on the proper management of the
environment, there is no shortage of passages which apply. The prophet Nahum wrote about these things saying, "You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more than the stars of the sky, but like locusts they strip the land and then fly away." (Nahum 3:16)
Being as most of the world in one form or another is religious by nature, we easily buy into the concept of pollution as a sin, and once we buy into that sin, we have created Green Guilt, and put in place a means by which to extract from us a fee that allows us to atone for our sins...Carbon Offsets. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the funds raised are used in a socially responsible way, used to help green those who cannot afford to green themselves.
The old saying says you cannot get something for nothing, but apparently Corporate America, some shrewd business people have figured out how to sell us NOTHING FOR SOMETHING. If you go to the web and do a Google search for carbon footprints, you can visit sites such as http://www.carbonfootprint.com/ that will encourage you to use their calculator to find out just what your personal carbon footprint is. These Green Sin meters will, in a matter of minutes tell you just how evil your polluting ways are, will instill in you a green guilt that you must ATONE FOR, knowing that you will want to do something to make amends to Mother Earth in such a fashion that requires no real sacrifice on your part, such as walking to the Pilate studio instead of driving the hummer, and GOD FORBID skipping your Star Bucks double latte mocha cherry jubilee.
Like tossing money in the collection plate on Sunday mornings, you can erase your sins, be forgiven your polluting ways by purchasing carbon offsets. HUH? A “carbon offset” is a greenhouse gas emission reduction credit or certificate that represents a reduction in carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere achieved by a company or organization through projects such as planting trees, building windmills, renewable energy, energy conservation and landfill methane projects. (Notice here, that most projects listed are projects aimed at turning a profit for someone.)
In case you are confused, let’s make it simpler. You give your money to a COMPANY or ORGANIZATION, and they give you NOTHING but a promise that they will go out and purchase something green in your honor as a way of erasing your carbon footprint. You can brag to your friends that you live a zero carbon footprint lifestyle (think Al Gore), and they get to take your money and invest it in GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE that they own! WOW, what a concept. You get a free pass to pollute without guilt, and they get rich off of your donations in purchasing Carbon Offsets, they get to own the green infrastructure that will fuel our new green economy.
I like the concept of carbon offsets, but have a problem with us as citizens being fleeced out of our hard earned dollars by some corporation who is using the money to own infrastructure that will over time turn them a handsome profit, make themselves richer. Therefore, I am going to propose here, that people stop buying carbon offsets from companies or organizations that use their money to benefit themselves. Instead, I am going to propose a new way of buying carbon offsets, going to suggest a very strict structure of how the money from carbon offsets are to be spent.
What if the money from carbon offsets had to be spent helping poor communities and people become green? Without exception, most poor families cannot afford to buy solar panels and deploy them on their roof, which in turn would reduce their carbon footprint, and their electric bills. So, what if the money from the carbon credits were to be used to deploy free solar panels onto the roofs of the world's poor?
Millions of people here in America are now buying into the concept of carbon offsets, are spending their hard earned money to purchase them. Imagine if that money were being invested in greening poor communities! With state and federal rebates, solar could be deployed onto homes for around $20,000 dollars. Now, let’s just imagine one million Americans each spending $100 to purchase carbon offsets from one of these companies...you have just given them the ability to own $100 million dollars in green infrastructure. What if your carbon offset money were used instead to put solar on the homes of poor Americans. With $100 million dollars, at $20,000 a home, we could put solar on the roofs of 5,000 American families homes that otherwise could not afford it.
First, we are greening communities that otherwise could not afford to go green, but we also are helping, over time, to lift them out of poverty. If each of those families were saving $100 a month on their utility bills, that is $1,200 a year they can keep in their budget, use to take care of something other than paying an electric bill. Those 5,000 families combined have new wealth in the amount of $6 Million dollars a year. Figuring a 25 year life span for the solar panels that $100 Million invested in solar panels purchased through carbon offsets would generate new wealth into poor communities in the amount of $150 million over that 25 year period. Imagine if we could duplicate this effort through the funds raised from carbon offsets each and every year! In 20 years, we could deploy solar onto the roofs of 100,000 homes if only one million people a year were buying $100 dollars worth of carbon credits. At the end of 20 years we would be creating new wealth in our poorest communities of $120 million a year.
Imagine if all of America's CSRO's (Corporate Social Responsibility Officer) decided to embrace this concept of the carbon offset model. Imagine the world using the money from carbon offsets (both at a corporate and personal level) to build green infrastructure literally from the ground up, bringing green infrastructure into our poorest communities world wide.
Being Green needs to mean something, being green should reflect social responsibility at a level never before envisioned. The money raised from carbon offsets could bring potable drinking water, and adequate sewage treatment to communities that otherwise cannot afford it. Our reliance on the grid could be reduced, while at the same time bringing new wealth into some of our poorest communities. Simply stated, I am proposing a simple plan change for carbon offsets. Let’s use them to be Socially Green Healers by using the money to help green those who cannot afford to green themselves.
If this is a concept you, or your company would like to investigate, explore or implement, I would ask that you contact FUSE USA. You can write this grassroots sustainable energy organization at firstname.lastname@example.org or FUSE USA, 351 Dyckman Street, Peekskill, New York 10566