Monday, June 16, 2008


We perpetrators of crimes from afar don’t usually see our victims. Instead we think of self and our own bumps and bruises. We commit folly and wallow in our losses, small as they may be. When the real damage reveals itself we feel shame, for our lack of imagination, for the innocents who go punished when we do not, and for our blame remaining hidden. We can only hope, late to the game as we are, that those innocents don’t suffer too severely and that our humble efforts to atone make some small difference.

Topping the news this morning is the horrific flooding in Iowa, more evidence of Mother Nature gone awry due to global warming. I was to have been in Iowa City today for the Summer Writing Festival. But the campus has suspended normal operations and the workshop was canceled as a result. I had wanted to visit with some colleagues beforehand. In our email back and forth last week they alerted me to the problems with the flooding ahead of time. The Festival itself was at first optimistic that it could go on in spite of the bad weather, but things went from bad to worse.

Last Thursday and Friday I was disappointed that this week at the Festival had been canceled. The workshop was to be a new opportunity and I was looking forward to it. But over the weekend, with the further storms here and there, my attention switched to those who’ve been victimized by the weather and what if anything can we do about it. Directly and immediately, there is probably not much we can do. Indirectly and longer term, I think there are plenty of things to try.

I’m trying to reduce my own personal carbon footprint. Last week, I ordered a Honda Civic Hybrid to replace my Pontiac Aztek. This should double the fuel efficiency when driving. The dealership was back ordered for this model. I’m to take delivery in late August or early September. But I believe it will be worth the wait.

I’ve also taken to turn off the lights and ceiling fans in our house in rooms where nobody is currently located. It’s miserly behavior, to be sure, the kind of thing my father did. But it’s not just for pinching pennies. It feels like the right thing to do.

The hardest thing for me personally, but I’m going to try, is to change my diet and, in particular, eat less meat. I wonder if others are feeling the same sense of obligation.

I don’t really understand the feedback loop by which reductions in consumption such as described above get translated back into reductions in production, particularly if those reductions are small, only at the individual level, not yet at the macroeconomic level. But surely a macroeconomic reduction in consumption is comprised of many individual reductions. Rather than free ride and get on the train only after it has left the station, why not reduce consumption now?


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