Man Without Qualities

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Gas Man II: Walking The Walk, Talking The Talk, Visiting The Site

I don't read People magazine, not even in the check-out line. But I was intrigued by this report on Newsbusters:

People asked Gore: "His film 'An Inconvenient Truth' warns about global warming. So what is Gore doing about it?"

"1. I turn off lights in my house [to conserve energy]. We're getting sensor switches that automatically turn them off when the room is empty.

2. We got a hybrid car recently.

3. We try to live a carbon neutral life. On, you'll find a calculator which can add up the carbon dioxide you produce and give you options for neutralizing that.

4. This movie saves carbon dioxide because I don't have to fly and drive places to get my message across."
Mr. Gore clearly intended to display leadership and to set an example for the public at large with these responses. So I immediately considered the prospect of everyone saving carbon dioxide by making a movie so they don't have to fly and drive places to get their own messages across! For example, the man (Anibal, to be precise, who is from Guatemala) currently reconstructing on my behalf some investment property located some blocks from my own home might exercise this option. One can think of others.

I do confess to some confusion with these answers, especially Mr. Gore's admission that his family has apparently not made a practice of turning off the lights until recently, and that he has not yet acquired those sensor switches, even though he has been preaching eco-awareness and eco-doom for more than two decades. What other revelations lie in store? Are we soon to discover that Mr. Gore makes a habit of leaving the patio doors opened in the heat of summer while the air conditioning is running, but is considering closing them?

Yes, some sophisticates might argue that because the problem is whether or not to modify our civilization's overall infrastructure, and if so how to do it, there is little that anyone can do on an individual basis while remaining within society. But I was particularly excited by Mr. Gore's suggestion to the contrary, and that I could visit the web site to find a calculator which can add up the carbon dioxide you produce and give you options for neutralizing that.

So I went to the site, which is really quite remarkable - a kind of secular confessional. You plug in some information about your car and energy bills and it gives you a number of pounds of carbon you produce, your burden of sin as it were. You then can find out how to neutralize this burden you are putting on the planet. It turns out there are basically three options, and they each involve either monthly payments or one lump sum payment to one of three organizations: one of these purports to build windmills on Native American lands, one plans to burn methane from family owned dairy farms (I'm not making this up) and the only other way to buy an indulgence is to purchase Green Tags, which presumably are also good, although no explanation of what exactly happens when you buy one is offered.

Well, there you go! And you thought there was nothing you could do to keep the earth from going to hell in a hand basket!

Mr. Gore is a wealthy man. It is said that he has made many millions of dollars from his Google stock alone. That wealth, and friendships with other wealthy people who own their own forms of air transport, presumably made possible the former vice president's ability to log what seems to have been at least hundreds of thousands of private jet miles (corresponding to an awful lot of jet fuel and carbon) in the last year or so, as animated here: WMV: Hi - Low Quicktime: Hi - Low. With that kind of travel schedule, one wonders how much bovine methane must be produced, or how many Green Tags one has to purchase, to lead the "carbon neutral lifestyle" to which Mr. Gore says he aspires.

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