Covering Your Tracks

In India, there are reputed to be people – I think they're called Jainists – who abide by a solemn oath to harm no living creature. You can see them, I've heard, shuffling slowly through the streets with brooms, carefully sweeping the sidewalk before them to avoid inadvertently crushing any insects that may be lying in their path.

It must be terribly frustrating. You're seeking salvation through perfection in successive lives, and – Oops! – you crunch a ladybug rolling out of bed, and realize you're now that much further from your cosmic goal, which could be thousands of years off anyway. That's quite a setback.

We all try to lead virtuous lives, though, in our own ways. (I personally spared a spider in the bathroom yesterday, for example, and I honestly do feel bad about composing this entry on company time. I rationalize that it's making me a better writer, which does benefit my employer, but I know I'm just making excuses, and the nagging guilt will always prevail.)

So I thought about this the other day when I read about something called a Terrapass. It's this sticker you can put on your car, certifying that you've paid to have the ecological impact of your driving be offset – perhaps canceled out entirely – through support for greener business practices. You can go to the website, calculate the annual carbon dioxide emissions of your vehicle, and purchase a corresponding greenhouse-gas abatement credit.

Your money goes to various concerns, including wind power, pollution-credit retirement and so forth. (Strange sidenote – there is actually a kind of stock exchange in Chicago where companies can buy "pollution credits": measured amounts of chemicals they're then allowed to put into the air or earth. For some manufacturers, it would cost billions to make their operations clean enough to meet EPA guidelines, so it's cheaper to just buy the right to pollute, but how anyone can claim the right to buy or sell these credits is beyond me. It sounds exactly like pimping the ecosystem.)

So you pay your $29.95 to Terrapass and they use it to buy pollution credits so polluters can't use them. Makes sense to me. I wonder, though: would it make you feel better? For our Saturn, it would theoretically take the "standard" sticker, the $39.95 one I think – the $30 model is for Priuses and the like – to make up for the 12,000 lbs. of CO2 we expel every year. Of course, we're still burning irreplaceable fossil fuels and dirtying toxic chemicals (and occasionally splattering bugs on the windshield, naturally), but it's still better than nothing.

I would think having a Terrapass on your car wouldn't so much show that you're truly treading lightly on the earth, just that you think it's important, and that you're trying. I think we'll buy one.

I don't really care if it makes me feel better or not. (In fact, I really doubt it.) For me I think it's just a statement. A declaration of concern for righting the wrongs inherent in my lifestyle. An acknowledgment that I Give A Crap. (In fact, maybe that's what the stickers should say.)

(Now, earning the right to drive my ancient V8 Volvo... I don't think I could even afford it.)

But it's a good idea. It's a way to try and do the right thing, and softly urge others to do the same. No pleasure without conscience, as Gandhi would say.

Now I guess I'd better get back to work.

1 comment:

penelope said...

I would put a "I give a crap" bumper sticker on my car. hee.