Debate and Discussion

Buying Carbon Neutrality: A Good Start or Ethically Wrong?
reconjsh at 8:55AM, March 28, 2007
posts: 663
joined: 12-18-2006

At the above site and many like it, you can buy your carbon neutrality. That is to say: you donate to a charity a calculated amount based on your reported energy usage that would offset or neutralize your greenhouse gas impact on the world because they use your money to do things - like plant trees, or invest in emission free technology, etc. - that offset whatever negative impact your self or business is having on the planet.

I've read that the average american can offset his ENTIRE LIFE for about $4,000 USD.

People like Opera - who live extremely lavish lives - tell us on their talk shows or political platforms to reduce our emissions. That's good of them. But, they still drive limos, own 5 fully staffed homes, fly from city to city, etc, etc.

Is it ethically fair that the rich can afford to buy their guilt away while the poor cannot?

Is the concept of carbon or greenhouse gas “neutrality” morally bankrupt if you buy it without also creating positive change in your life regarding emissions creation?

Is this a a good first step because at least people are doing something and anything is better than nothing?

I personally am glad something is being done, but I'm offended that people can just throw money at charity and whipe their conscious clean rather than reduce emissions and whipe their conscience clean. Like when the Oscars this year “went green”… as the Daily Show pointed out: “one of the biggest Hollywood consumer events celebrating America's most wasteful industry (Hollywood) has gone ‘green’? What kind of insanity is that?”
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
WingNut at 9:46AM, March 28, 2007
posts: 747
joined: 10-13-2006
Sounds like modern day indulgences. Although it is nice that something is being done, people seem to think that in so doing, they now have liberty to do whatever they desire, ecologically speaking.

An interesting concept, but something doesn't sit right with me on this one.

last edited on July 14, 2011 4:50PM
ozoneocean at 10:02AM, March 28, 2007
posts: 26,046
joined: 1-2-2004
The whole carbon neutrality idea is a bit flimsy… For a start, how can you be sure that's where the money really goes? Then there's only so much land that you can sequester just for plants and keep safe so that nothing else happens to them… Economically that doesn't really work though does it? It's a stupid way to make money off of land! And it doesn't work, take cemeteries as an example: once the land is full, the earning potential drops to zero so they'll dig up bodies are start again after about 20 years or so. The only way the model can really work is through farming, or “renting” the land for tourism.

-And even then you have to be careful about the vegetation that's planted… Mass plantings of single types of fast growing trees can decimate ecosystems as easily as a fire. Bio diversity is reduced to nothing.

Ah, the whole idea of using charity to support the environment is stupid anyway. As you say Recon: Reduce your energy usage, it's the only real way. If someone's preaching about it, then they should be the first to actively reduce their usage! Not absolve themselves through petty charity… It reminds me of feudal times when the rich and royal would get away with living against the wishes of their churches and laws by simply giving token charity… Donating money, paying for a sculpture of jesus, paying for a Shinto temple arch… whatever. All of it fake because they didn't live it. :)
URGH! So I need to drop 300 bones on lightbulb technology that only still exists because manufacturing the other ones that NEVER burn out and were created 30+ years ago would create a product that never needs to be renewed
I don't know about 30 years ago, but over a hundred years ago they worked out some good ways of making light bulbs… Just running less electricity through a normal incandescent bulb extends its life enormously. There are incandescent bulbs running on low power that have never burned out, since they were made, many, many decades ago. You could run a 100w globe on say 10w and it would just LAST. You'd have to get used to the fainter glow, but it's much like candle light really and we used to make do with that once upon a time.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:26PM
reconjsh at 11:00AM, March 28, 2007
posts: 663
joined: 12-18-2006
There's all sorts of interesting things that have been invented but never marketed because they don't meet some sort of model for profit regarding product experations and renewal - like non-filament, never-burnout, significantly less energy using light bulbs from several years ago and electric big-3 cars from the 70's (I think it was the 70s, maybe the 60s).

I'm with Wingnut… this whole thing just doesn't sit right with me either. Double O's analogy of buying statues or temples is a good one I think.

As Yoda said: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

I guess it's at least a nice way to get people to at least do something. But, I just don't see how someone can be proud of their hypocrisy - spending millions and billions in the entertainment industry making money while spending 100 bucks month to buy a guilt-free conscience.

Al Gore said something like “What good is money if there's no world?”.

Edit: My wife and I have tried to buy an electric/hybrid car twice now… but we just couldn't afford it both times. Maybe our next one will be the one. (there's a few factors in “affording a car” that come in to play too… like i'm 6'5" so the cheapest, smallest eletric car didn't fit me… the sizes that did fit were out of our price range… so we bought a Ford Focus)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
kingofsnake at 11:27AM, March 28, 2007
posts: 1,374
joined: 9-27-2006
reminds me of feudal times when the rich and royal would get away with living against the wishes of their churches and laws by simply giving token charity… Donating money, paying for a sculpture of jesus, paying for a Shinto temple arch… whatever.

Indulgences. The church sometimes still grants those today, although, never for money anymore. Now its like, quitting smoking can get you an indulgence, because it's such a challenge that requires willpower(the church says) on a near spiritual level.

Anyway, that aside. I think this is a good program. You guys are looking at the worstcase scenario. Ecological indulgences aside, they're just a charity that uses donations to help improve the environment. They may be cashing in on the guilt of Americans for their wasteful ways, but as long as they're using that money to help improve the environment I could care less what sort of guilt trip they're putting people on in order to get it.

Theres no way they're like “We got Tad's payment into day, go translate this into three trees” They're taking the total amount donated in a certain period and putting that towards running all their programs, which includes, i gather, buying more land to plant trees on whenever possible. It's possible that they're going to mess up biodiversity, but unless we have reason to believe thats what they're doing, why assume so.

Yes, people should focus on conserving more, but we have ground to make up that JUST conserving won't fix. Actually improving the environment will. We need more charities trying to do that. Anyone who really cares about the environment is going to donate to a charity like this on top of trying to conserve.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
ozoneocean at 11:57AM, March 28, 2007
posts: 26,046
joined: 1-2-2004
It's possible that they're going to mess up biodiversity, but unless we have reason to believe thats what they're doing, why assume so.
Oh I'm not assuming… I'm a news junkie. I love listening to world news, especially when they do environmental science programs (BBC world, DW Radio, Radio Netherlands etc.), I've heard about it from most angles and there have been cases like the one I mentioned; usually involving this like pines; a single species takes over an entire forest. They may even clear slower growing trees to make way for a program.

But as I say, it's all very well thinking those agencies are up to good, but they're not really. The whole idea is based on an alternative way to make money, so while there are going to be idealistic, good thinking people involved, half of them are not; if you know anything about the charity world then you'd realise. And what happens when a program goes bust? All that land they bought up to secure your future by offsetting your carbon usage is up for grabs! That's what's going to happen. Whatever they put money into regarding offsetting carbon can easily be undone while the carbon you cause to be emitted can not; Whatever they do doesn't put that carbon away into a magically sealed, untouched land. ;)

SO the whole system is flawed. A salve for the shallow thinkers and people who see so short term their vision barely extends 5 years ahead. Meanwhile useful measures you can take into a real reduction of your energy usage may go to the wayside and actually get put into reverse for many people because now they think they have an easy way out. Not to mention government funds going towards it instead of research into energy reduction strategies! That means on balance Carbon Neutrality is worse doing than nothing.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:26PM
Hawk at 10:36PM, March 28, 2007
posts: 2,775
joined: 1-2-2006
That's a very interesting way of putting it, Ozone.

You know which route I prefer? If I could either decrease my wastage or legitimately pay for it, I'd definitely do the former. Even if I KNEW my money would go to a very good cause, I'd see more convincing and immediate results by simply learning to be less wasteful.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
pillinjer at 3:23AM, March 29, 2007
posts: 26
joined: 3-21-2007
Then you have the people who think thats just becasue they paid their $4000 or what the equilviant in real money then you can not reduce your other waste. “Look at me” they cry on TV “I'm doing my bit for the world shouldn't you.”

I think if say someone funded the project and made it a proper nature reserve for example, with no cars allowed on site, It may help, but otherwise I agree with ozoneocean , this system is worse than doing nothing. The only good point is that people who see the major major flaws may do some good where it is needed.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
lothar at 5:09AM, March 29, 2007
posts: 1,299
joined: 1-3-2006
if you realy want to be carbon nuetral then i guess everybody should stop breathing !
that whole plan sounds like a scam, akin to buying realestate on Mars ! it's amazing the things people will buy just so they can continue doing nothing !
I dont drive a car , i ride electric trains and subways (i don't know where that electricity comes from) all the lights in my house are low wattage flourecents , and i hang my cloths to dry. but these things are all common in Japan , whereas in the US people will still use an electric dryer to dry their clothes even when it is 35C degrees (100F) outside prolly the same fools that are buying into this Carbon neutrality thing .
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:45PM

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