I found a chart the other day that really got me thinking about how we think about environmentalism. It listed a bunch of the things you can do to help reduce your carbon emissions and their relative impact. This is something we need more of, I think, because people do often focus on doing easy things that aren't especially useful. For example, changing all your lightbulbs to more efficient ones reduces your output per year by 100kg. Recycling reduces it by 210kg.
And declining one single return flight across the atlantic reduces it by 1600kg.
Yeah. Just think about that. Did all the things you tried to do for the environment for the entire year get dwarfed by that single long distance flight you took?
Mine didn't quite get zeroed out though, because I live car free, and that gives me a 2400kg bonus, so I am ahead on that count at least.
But the real killer is that a person in Canada emits roughly 20,000kg of carbon emissions per year. If Wendy and I had decided to be childless then we could own a car and take five flights to Europe a year each and still be ahead of where we are now with our one kid.
And if we didn't have a child we would easily have the money for that car and those flights!
But people who have three kids? There is *nothing* they can do that even approaches the scale of the emissions that their kids create. They can go vegetarian, walk everywhere, completely refuse plane travel, recycle, hang their washing to dry, and it won't matter. Their decision to have children means that the emissions from their family will dwarf the emissions from my family, period.
A really rich family could definitely push their emissions higher even with few or no children. Buy a yacht and sail that thing around all day every day. Own five houses and heat and cool the heck out of them. Have a car for every day of the week, go nuts.
But by and large, it is the number of people that is the biggest factor once you take out the extreme high and low outliers in terms of wealth.
Not that any of this is news. Overpopulation is the primary driver of basically all of our environmental concerns. But sometimes you look at a chart and then it really hits you that population is the real thing, and the rest just follows from it.
I don't quite know what to make of it. I made the decision to have a child without really thinking about it this way, and now it makes all of the decisions I make about environmentalism seem utterly absurd. Penny wise, pound foolish, almost.