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Getting your feet wet in the Gila River.

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Carbon Footprints in the Sand

Whip out your checkbook and buy yourself some global-warming absolution!

 

I am blessed with some big ol' goofy feet. Although my feet are a compact size 12 by traditional measurement, my lovely wife refers to them as "gunboats." I think that my feet are perfectly fine, and wholly representative of the podiatric sciences. Like feet everywhere, however, they tend to leave footprints in their wake, whether on soil, sand or the sticky floor of the local theater. This is nothing new, and footprints seem to be an innocuous side affect of locomotion, which is pretty much all there is to say about footprints. Until I found out there are different types of footprints.

Did you know that we all have carbon footprints now, too? Nobody was more surprised than me, especially when I found out that a person's carbon footprint has nothing to do with the size of his Reeboks. Even more surprising is that you don't even need to have feet to create a carbon footprint — paraplegics have a carbon footprint, too. Suspecting something akin to a snipe hunt hosted by the environmental community, I warily Googled "carbon footprint" on my computer to find out more.

It turns out that certain scientists have noted a gradual increase in the planet's temperature, a phenomenon creatively called "global warming." These lab-coated rascals, having already invented Teflon and cellular phones, have figured out that excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are retaining heat, making it easier to fetch the paper in only your shorts in February. Where does carbon dioxide come from? Well, most of it comes from natural sources — plants, oceans and animals. But a small percentage comes from anthropogenic, or man-made sources: burning fossil fuels, destruction of forests and Sunday-morning political talk shows. Point being, we have 35 percent more CO2 above our heads now than we did in 1800, which is not a good thing.

I never had a desire to party with Al Gore. In fact, I find it ironic that he has evolved into a planetary paladin for the environment, given his obviously tendency to store lengths of lumber rectally. I mean, did you see that awkward, clumsy, wooden lip-lock he laid on Tipper in 2001? He is as wooden as one of Tolkien's Ents, and about as much fun, too. He may be on to something with global warming, however, and in encouraging people to become aware of their carbon footprint. So I padded my size-12 Chuck Taylors back to the computer and calculated my "footprint" on Carbonfootprint.com.

Bad news, pilgrims: I am a big part of the problem. My primary carbon footprint is stamped upon the environment like a big, fat Diplodocus dinosaur. I registered a leviathan-like 21,719 kg/year, which beats the average American by 2,719 kg. Get this — the average of all industrial nations is claimed to be 11,000 kg/year per person, and the worldwide average (dragged down by all the goat-herders in Botswana) is just 4,000 kg/year. Carbonfootprint.com claims that we need a world average of just 2,000 kg/year to counter climate change.

Time to stock up on sandals and cargo shorts, boys! It's fixin' to warm up around here.

Thank goodness for the modern infatuation with unaccountability. Capitalism to the rescue! It seems I can buy my way out of my environmental transgressions and get right with Al Gore by purchasing "carbon credits"! For just $42 a month, I can get 25 annual ton credits, which covers me perfectly. In fact, I'd have a surplus of 281kg, so I can have an extra campfire this year. I'm not sure what the money goes for, but I sure will sleep better at night knowing that my conscience is clear and my net impact on the atmosphere is nil. In fact, I may even adopt a holier-than-thou attitude, and throw cans of oxygen on your petrochemical parade, righteous in the purity of my crusade.

I suppose it's easy for the environmentalists to pick the low-hanging fruit. If people want to assuage their conscience by pushing cash on the cause, it only makes sense to ask for it. My cynicism prevents me from assigning much positive value to such assuaging, though. Instead, I went out and bought a package of curly fluorescent light bulbs that look like hell in my ceiling fan, but save carbon emissions by saving energy. I have actually curtailed excessive trips to town, which is really difficult with two socialized teenagers in the house.

I hope that the fine people of Beverly Hills can write big fat carbon-offset checks to help them sleep better at night, but I really don't see how that makes up for driving a hulking Hummer with chrome wheels to Oscar night. As for me, I can be more circumspect in my footprint-making, but I can't make them go away unless I cut my feet off, which pragmatically speaking isn't really an option. Until they put my feet in a pine box, I will undoubtedly affect my environment, but you can't convince me that whipping out a checkbook is a viable alternative to environmental action.

If it were that easy, I'd go ahead and buy myself absolution, a solid-gold Harley with machine guns on the front, and a solar-powered film projector for Al Gore to show his movie with. And then I'd sleep like a baby.

 

Henry Lightcap emits carbon dioxide into the skies above Las Cruces.

 

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