Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Decade's Resolution

A note before we begin:
Some will argue whether or not the new decade is already underway.  I really don't care very much, but am casting my lot with it starting in a couple of days so I've got a better rhetorical gimmick.  And I know there was no Year 0.

The meat of the thing:
I'll start off by noting that I'm typically not a New Year's resolution kind of guy.  There's only been one resolution in my life that I've been pretty good about: Drink beer from a glass whenever practical.  You get to taste it more fully that way.

Maybe my problem with the whole resolution idea is that, as an Earth science kind of guy, the scale's too short.  But, the New Year is a good opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future and the New Decade seems like an even better opportunity.  Is it ten times better?  I'm not sure about that, but you may have noticed a theme in across many posts about difficulties associated with thinking in the longer term.

If you want to refresh your memory, or if you're just tuning in, see the posts that made analogies between thinking about climate change and thinking about issues of public health (especially smoking) and between climate change planning and planning for retirement.  Last week's post on where weight goes when you lose it touches on it too.  In fact, so does the post on using your Christmas tree to teach about carbon.  All of that deals, at least in part, with thinking beyond tomorrow or next week, and is intended to foster deeper understanding of the Long Now.

To understand climate and climate change, you need to have a grasp of things that take years, decades, centuries or millennia to play out.  Or longer.  Really.

I learned of this video on Andy Revkin's dotearth blog.

This is where having thought about and taught about the history of the Earth and Universe comes in handy.  With the Earth having an age of about 4.5 billion years and the Universe a few times older than that, what happens in the course of a single year doesn't usually amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

For some things, of course a year or a decade is a long time.  I am the father of a nine- and a six-year-old, after all.  A decade's made a huge difference in my life.  But to the Earth me and mine are just a blip.  And so are you.

Humanity, to the Earth, is just a blip as well, but we're a blip that's been important, especially in the time since we figured out how to get stuff out of the ground and burn it to give us power to do stuff.  We've changed the face of the Earth profoundly.  And that idea brings me back to the point of the entry -- to set a New Decade resolution.

Here it is:  By the decade's end (12/31/20) I resolve to make an evidence-based case that the carbon footprint of myself and my immediate family will be negative.  

How will I/we do that?  I'm not exactly sure, but it will certainly involve educating folks and institutions about how to reduce their carbon footprints.  And, deciding what's a reasonable cut for me to take of their cut.  Can I engage people in the Low Carbon Diet, and claim 1% of their reductions, for example?  If I come up with great ideas and post them here, or convey someone else's great idea to the readership of this blog that help people reduce their emissions, maybe than can let me know and I can take just a bit of credit for it.

And it will certainly involve reducing emissions for my household and my lifestyle.  It is easier, obviously, to cancel out a small set of climate impacts than a big set of climate impacts.  Right now, in spite of thinking about this stuff nearly all the time, I still have way too big a footprint myself.  That's highlighted by my travel.  In 2010, I've traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Smoky Mountain National Park (Tennessee & North Carolina), Monroe, MI, Victoria (British Columbia), and many trips within New York State.  One can't do all that travel without having a pretty big footprint, though I've done things on some of those trips to reduce it like carpooling and taking the train where practical.  We've done a fair amount to reduce household impacts -- Energy Star appliances, CFLs, and, more importantly, it's a fairly small house that's close to where we work (really close as I work in my home).

And, what do I mean when I say "evidence-based case?"  What I mean is that I want my claim to stand up to reasonable review.  I want to point to evidence that's compelling.  I welcome your help in figuring out what that is.

I think it's a pretty lofty goal, but my track record's not bad.  I still usually drink my beer from a glass, you know, and I think I made that resolution about a decade ago.

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