Walking The Talk On Climate Change, II

Following up further on Ed Graef’s excellent letter to the editor of the High Country News:

At least one “liberal environmental” household (mine) has altered its lifestyle out of concern for global warming. For example, we use public transit and use less than half the electricity of the average U.S. household due to our clothesline, CFL lightbulbs and low hot water use. The list goes on, but the fact that I wash my hair in cold water speaks to not every liberal being a hypocrite. Thor calls me Alison the Iceslayer.

For all that, I’m afraid that Mr. Graef is 98% correct. Even among the many professionals I know who work in sustainability, only one couple refrains from taking airplane flights due to their enormous carbon footprint. (That is Jeanne and Dick Roy, who founded the Northwest Earth Institute). It’s true that the very liberals who literally know better still feel unthinkingly entitled to travel without limits. I feel clear that needs to change, and I’m happy to see a conservative speaking out on that.

Mr. Graef’s challenge to reduce consumption, though, should be directed at everyone, not just liberals. He is assuming that lifestyle leadership and intellectual leadership should necessarily come from the same people. If liberals like Al Gore have excelled at the latter, why couldn’t some conservatives excel at the former, setting ideology aside? We need all the leadership we can get, from all quarters.

And I am personally relinquishing any notion of international travel in 2008, and possibly beyond. I don’t have to stop at slaying ice when I wash my hair :).

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2 Responses to “Walking The Talk On Climate Change, II”


  1. 1 Colleen February 11, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    As an avid international traveler, my biggest carbon footprints are admittedly my long-haul flights. In my daily life, I use very little energy at home, drive less than 3,000 miles per year, take transit, walk and cycle. There is much more I can and should do, however, I am not willing to completely give up my travels — often to less-developed countries for volunteer work and to educate others on poverty, indigenous peoples and environmental issues — because I believe these travel benefits are immesurable. I firmly believe education-focused travel, volunteer-travel and eco-travel (to communities that help protect the environment thanks to tourist dollars) is important to preserving the Earth. And I believe the presence of Americans helping others abroad does much to counterract poor U.S. foreign policy and anti-Americanism abroad. Thanks, Alison, for helping me focus on this today — and to think about how I might lobby on behalf of better emission standards for airplanes and to consider offsets when I do travel internationally! 🙂

  2. 2 Micki Carrier February 13, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Now that is what I call willingness-washing hair in cold water! Wow. I recently hauled my weird plastics to a recycling drive…. it was both uplifting (to see resin lawn chairs, plant pots, etc. being adopted for re-use) and alarming to see SO MUCH plastic (a mountain of plastic bottle caps, tubs galore, etc). I guess we are setting the pace here in Oregon…but best to limit consumption where possible (ie reusable water bottles, locally-grown produce). Keep up the good work and writing, Alison!


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