Several months ago, I caught an episode of Penn & Teller’s “Bull****” that showed people collecting money in parking lots from shoppers, by making them feel guilty that their vehicles were contributing to global warming. People were actually being made to feel sufficiently guilty about driving an SUV to the super market, that they were handing over money to a perfect stranger. These were not actors hired by Penn & Teller to illustrate a point; they were real – albeit mighty stupid – people who apparently are part of the “green generation.” Members of this growing movement apparently feel guilty that mankind has over the course of its sorry existence, so desecrated Mother Earth that we must now spend our lives atoning for such sins as driving cars, flying on airplanes, or turning on electric lights.
P.T. Barnum actually underestimated the number of suckers born every minute.
Apparently this is no longer a few sappy people in La La Land taking a break from defending Roman Polanski to attend a charity ball to save the dolphins. Carbon-mania is going main stream. New kiosks at San Francisco’s international airport soon will offer flyers the opportunity to pay for the “carbon emission” to be produced by the passenger jet which will fly them from Point A to Point B. A flight from the City by the Bay to New York will cost more than a shorter flight to, say, San Diego; and a trans-Pacific flight will cost, well, if you have to ask you can’t afford it.
Where will the “carbon-guilt” dollars that gullible air travelers pay into these kiosks go? To help entrepreneurial businesses that have been able to satisfy those who control fund-raising at the airport that they will use the money for truly “green” projects. One such company is Dogpatch Biofuels, described in an environment-oriented periodical as a “bio-diesel fueling station in the Bay area.”
Wal-Mart, sensing an emerging consumer trend, reportedly is investing heavily in developing a methodology to calculate the “environmental impact” of products it sells. Presumably this would convince customers that the massive retail chain is sufficiently environmentally conscious, that people would buy toilet paper from Wal-Mart instead of from Kroger down the street.
Seriously, Wal-Mart actually plans soon to start labeling its products with a “sustainability score.” This pseudo-scientific ranking would measure not only the amount of carbon emissions that went into an item’s manufacture, but also how much water was used in its creation and how much waste it produced. The global retailer reportedly has not yet decided how to display these scores; some have suggested a simple number from 1 to 10, while others opt for a range of colors. Perhaps Wal-Mart’s researchers should consult with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), whose “threat level” color code has proved so instrumental in protecting our nation from terrorist attacks over the past eight years.
The fallacy (or at least one fallacy) with such calculations is that there is simply no real way to measure the environmental impact of any particular product, whether manufactured or organic. “Green” researchers in the UK and in the US have been trying unsuccessfully to develop consistent, standardized methodology for measuring the “carbon footprint” of a cow; so as to convey to consumers the environmental “cost” of a quart of milk, a piece of steak or a pair of leather shoes. Trying to calculate the environmental cost of bovine belching (condemned by many as a prime culprit of global warming), for example, has proved distressingly difficult.
Where will this “carbon footprint” fixation taking hold here and in Europe lead? An eventual “environmental tax,” certainly; but it will go beyond that. The Optimum Population Trust in the UK, for example, has called for measures to ensure that families have no more than two children, because offspring in excess of that number is an “eco-crime.”