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Global gluttony 

Patrick, you fat bastard, you're going to have to order another pizza

In response to Patrick Howe's "Global pizza" commentary (May 3):

Patrick argues that it's pointless for an individual to try to do anything about global warming. He says the job has to be done by governments. He's wrong. Apathy won't cool the earth any more than guilt will.

Patrick's argument about the fat guy heedlessly devouring the last slice of pizza is one for laziness and nihilism. The tendency for people to abuse public resources is not a new problem, but it is one that starts and ends with the individual. Patrick made the decision to save a slice. Now he needs to wrap it in tin foil and put it in the fridge.

He never addresses the central problem that's causing global warming. We can pass responsibility for global warming to the government for not regulating enough, the corporations for ignoring environmental impact when seeking higher profits, the oil companies for producing a toxic product and feeding our addiction to it. We can blame individuals who carelessly drive bigger vehicles than they need or who procreate like rodents. We can blame our culture for breeding apathy, but we are all of these things. We are the government. We feed the corporations and demand higher market shares. We indulge our egos with bigger, more expensive cars. We take too much from the Earth, and the only real solution is to consume less.

I agree that at some point the government must regulate the way individuals and corporations use public resources, such as air and water, but do you really expect Uncle Sam to identify every environmental breakdown in our country and effectively combat pollution? We cannot rely on the government to find better ways for us to live. We can only insist on legislation that forces individuals and businesses to operate in sustainable ways. Private companies will develop better technology, and government action will come only when we demand it.

Patrick's assertion that the very article he writes is contributing to global warming, but that his polar efforts might do nothing, is just flawed. If he can acknowledge his negative impact on the world, why not recognize the positive influence he could have? Because of the extra effort it takes to, say, ride a bike? You can make whichever impact you choose to, but real change will require drastic lifestyle transformations. It will require people to get off their asses and become conscious of daily activities. As a parent, Patrick has a moral responsibility to preserve the world for his children, and to teach them better ways of living than his generation and mine.

Patrick is right to be skeptical of companies that sell "carbon offsets." They might feel good, but you can't buy a conscience clean and continue to grossly pollute. Purchasing carbon credits means paying someone to assess your yearly carbon output, and then trusting that they'll spend your money to plant trees or invest in alternative energy sources. These companies are largely unregulated, their effectiveness is unknown, and they don't address the real issue at hand: that we need to significantly reduce our carbon output. Buying carbon credits is like eating the last slice of pizza, and then offering money to buy another but until we colonize Mars, we can't buy another pizza.

Thankfully, it's getting cooler to be green. Consider the expanding green market, and with it the "green washing" phenomenon. Consumers are demanding more efficient cars, cleaner fuels, more bike paths, building designs that incorporate more natural light, and goods made from recycled materials, and companies respond with new "green" products. Trader Joe's, for example, will sell you a canvas bag to carry your groceries but you probably already have an extra bag at home. Do you really need to buy one that's dedicated for groceries? It's cool to be more sustainable, but slowing global warming has to be a conscious effort. Each of us needs to find ways of saving resources, not just buying more "green." The technology will come, but it has to be implemented on an individual level. We must actually ride bikes, live in smaller houses, recycle, and buy fewer things.

This article is taking a small step toward global warming, because it is printed on paper, burning coal to power the factory, and using energy to power the light by which you read. It was transferred by car. Within our current system, it's nearly impossible to live with zero impact, but even without knowing the size of your footprint, you can make a difference. Reading this article online rather than in print would cut the need for paper. Ask for print on recycled paper. Read it in natural light rather than turning on a light. Ride your bike to get the paper instead of driving. All of this would contribute to the solution. When the government does decide to enforce changes, we have to be ready to change.

If we stick with the assumption that global warming is real and that CO2 is a major contributor, we are causing the destruction of entire species and populations. The good news: You can make lifestyle changes that will prevent this or Paso Robles residents can soon enjoy beachfront property.

New Times contributor Kylie Mendonca agrees with Mark Twain: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it." Send comments to kmendonca@newtimesslo.com.

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