Texas floods 2017, California fires 2018, Australia fires and floods 2019-2020, etc., etc. Everyone who cares about Earth should be thinking about how they can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This doesn’t have to be a painful sacrifice, full of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth.
Instead of focusing on the sacrifices to limit climate change and what we’ll have to give up, I think about it as more of a perspective change and a cultural realignment. It is more fundamental than giving up this or that, but also has great potential to be a force for positive change in a lot of peoples’ lives.
A while ago, I visited some people who I’ve known for a long time. I only had a long weekend for a visit, so our time together was brief. What struck me most on this weekend visit was how much of their lives is spent in a car driving from one place to another for every possible reason. Since I spend just over zero time in a car during my normal life, I was amazed at how much of their lives seemed to be passed by, like the ephemeral images one sees from the window of a car. Their whole lives seemed to revolve around cars and driving.
Would it be such a bad thing to not be a slave to the infernal combustion engine? I would point out that to get rid of something is only a sacrifice if you liked it. What if you end up liking the fact that you gave it up even more? Yes, it takes a bit of reconfiguring your life to create your own Copenhagen by moving somewhere where you can get what you need and get to your work by bike. It is not that hard though. Plus, the benefits are enormous. Here’s what I’ve given up:
- Paying $10,000 annually for car payments, gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, taxes, etc.
- The daily stress caused by driving in traffic and a resulting frequent bad attitude towards work and a lot of other things.
- Lower back pain that stopped as soon as I stopped driving, plus general unhealthiness.
- Releasing 11,430 pounds (5.5 tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year from the car I used to drive.
What did I gain?
- Better mental health and attitude.
- Better physical health and fitness.
- I get to take a nice vacation every year with all the money I save.
- Knowing that, as a bike commuter I am doing the biggest single thing an individual can do to reduce greenhouse gasses.
So what have I sacrificed? What is the downside? I haven’t yet found a downside to living a car(e)-free life! Yes, it can seem a bit hard sometimes when you’re riding up a big hill and it’s raining and cold! But those kinds of experiences actually become character building opportunities to better yourself. I’m afraid that I cannot call any of this a sacrifice.
The truth is, a life that has a lower carbon footprint is a life that has higher quality, is more enjoyable, has less stress, and is way more fun. Less is more. We are the Amish of the 21st Century. Yes, it can mean hard work, but it’s more of a lifestyle choice than a sacrifice. We gain by the choices we make to live with less.
My suggestion to everyone is to look at this climate change glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Kill your car, save the world, save money, and have a better life! How is that a sacrifice?