July 16, 2005

Clearing the air

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” For me, this passage from Genesis is a central concept for stewardship of the environment. The very fact that God created the world and found it ‘very good’ makes it sacred, in my opinion. And who am I to desecrate God’s creation?

I’ve long been amazed at some people’s recalcitrance in acknowledging global warming, or at least acknowledging the effect of pollution in the earth’s atmosphere. Even here in my relatively small Midwestern city, we often have ‘ozone alerts’ in the summer. If we have too many, we lose our Federal highway funding or some such similar thing that is a big deal. So, we’re told to adjust our lives for a while – fill up the cars at night, not during the day; don’t mow during the day; drive less; and so on.

All one has to do, in my opinion, to be convinced of air pollution is to see it from above. I’ve flown above cities in the summer – Atlanta, LA, New York, Cincinnati, Denver, Chicago, and many others – and clearly saw a brownish-gray haze enveloping them. It’s real, and it can’t be argued that it’s harmless.

So, what can we do about it? Well, as a nation we could join the Kyoto Protocol. The US has refused to do this because of the effect it would have on the US economy, and because it thinks there are better ways to go about reducing emissions. Personally, I think that is a foolish approach to take; we ought to join the Kyoto Protocol. But when has politics ever been a rational proposition?

However, individuals can take actions to reduce emissions. This week I found a way I can completely offset the amount of emissions from my SUV and car. I’m going to buy a TerraPass. Here’s how it works: I use the TerraPass calculator to determine how many pounds of carbon dioxide my vehicle emits in a year. Then I purchase a TerraPass decal in an amount that can be invested to offset that carbon dioxide. That money will be invested in things like wind farms, methane capture, and allowances from the Chicago Climate Exchange. So, my vehicles will be carbon-dioxide-neutral for $2.50 per week ($1.54 for my SUV and $0.96 for my car) – that’s just a hair less costly than a gallon of gas. Plus, it’s easy, affordable, and I think, effective.