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Stevie wonders… 'Carbon credits for thee? Why not me?'

Steven Schindler

Special to the Village News

Whether or not you believe climate change is an immediate danger, a distant danger, somewhat of a danger, or a hoax, there are certain climate change realities that can’t be denied. One of them is something called “carbon credits” or “carbon offsets.”

Carbon credits and carbon offsets are two ways in which big corporations and very rich people justify using too much carbon, i.e. polluting, burning fossil fuels, and using too much jet fuel in private jets or using massive amounts of fuel and energy to keep their many mansions, fleets of autos, and multi-million-dollar yachts afloat and stocked with caviar and supermodels.

Calm down. I’m not accusing anyone or denying anything about climate change. I’m shedding some light on the business end of climate change, and how certain folks – politicians, celebrities, billionaires – excuse themselves from being accused of climate hypocrisy.

For instance, former Vice President Al Gore is probably the granddaddy of all climate change activists. He has been accused of being a hypocrite, due to the fact that he’s very wealthy and lives his life as such with at least four luxury residences according to the Daily Mail.

Thus he uses more resources than an average citizen by flying around the globe and heating and air conditioning his many homes. Not to worry! Basically the reply from activists are all something along this line, “The former Vice President doesn’t own a private jet and offsets travel for himself and staff through a program that cancels out your carbon footprint by ostensibly preventing emissions elsewhere, like planting trees or supporting renewable energy.”

Then there’s this about Bill Gates from CBS News: “Gates spoke with BBC journalist Amol Rajan, who asked the Microsoft co-founder, ‘What do you say to the charge that if you are a climate change campaigner, but you also travel around the world on a private jet, you're a hypocrite?’ Gates was quick to defend his actions, saying he's ‘not part of the problem.’ ‘I buy the gold standard of funding Climeworks to do direct air capture that far exceeds my family's carbon footprint and I spend billions of dollars on climate innovation,’ he said.”

Well if Al Gore and Bill Gates can justify their current colossal carbon footprint, by offsetting it with future investments in Climeworks, or planting trees somewhere on the planet, I hereby claim that my family’s past miniscule carbon footprint allows me to live a guilt-free life when it comes to heating and cooling our home, driving an internal combustion engine automobile, or flushing my toilet as many times as it takes to, well, you know…

I remember one freezing winter evening in 1977 when President Jimmy Carter appeared in his cardigan sweater in front of a fireplace on a special TV appearance carried live on all the networks and implored that all Americans should turn their thermostats down to 65 degrees and just wear a sweater in the house. My first thought was, “People can adjust their thermostats?”

You see, in our one-bedroom Bronx apartment, we had no control over what the temperature in our apartment would be. In fact most of the winter, we were freezing our buns off, and our only hope to possibly get more heat was to bang on the steam radiator with a hammer, hoping the super would get the message and throw more coal into the furnace and turn up the heat.

When I was very young, I remember my mom dressing me while I stood on the kitchen table, with the oven door open and all the gas burners blasting away. As you know, heat rises, so she was offering me a few degrees of heat as she put my legs into my long johns, so I could walk the half mile or so to third grade in the snow.

So I hereby declare these are my carbon offsets: After not having a thermostat for 25 years in our Bronx apartment, I can now put the temperature at 72 degrees when it’s cold out. And when it’s pushing 90 degrees, I think I earned enough retro-active credits to put my thermostat to 74.

Walking to school for eight years of grammar school, taking the subway and buses to four years of high school, four years of college, and several years of working in Manhattan, I think has earned me enough carbon offsets to drive a gasoline powered car for the rest of my life.

And since Bill Gates brought up his family’s carbon footprint, I can add the same amount of offsets and credits due to my dad riding the subway to work for 44 years, my mom taking the bus to work for 30 years, and my brother and sister also walking and taking public transportation until they were 21 or so years old. And the fact that our family of five lived in a one bedroom apartment for over 20 years should also count for something.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re trying to do our part. Our current home has an extensive rooftop solar system with a battery backup. My wife and I drive cars that get over 30 mpg, and we help the environment with over a hundred trees on our property.

All I’m saying is that as far as the super wealthy who jet around the world, live in multiple mansions, including some on the water’s edge – but then tell us how to live our lives – I’m not sure their message is getting across. I believe the applicable phrase is “practice what you preach.”

Steven Schindler’s latest novel is “Fallout Shelter.”


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