The Footprint Theory of Life

I made a resolution to lower my carbon footprint. Everyone's doing it. They say it's good for the Earth!

I tried my best at first. But the more I learned about carbon footprints, the harder it became.

Turns out that just about every single thing I do uses up carbon! Since almost every form of transportation -- trucks, cars, trains, planes, ships -- uses petroleum-based fuel, and since petroleum is mostly just carbon mixed up with hydrogen, then everything I use, eat, touch or want requires carbon combustion to reach me. Damn! Every manufactured product of any kind is made up of raw materials that were dug up or retrieved by fuel-burning machines, then transported in fuel-burning trucks or trains to huge plants to be processed or refined, then transported in fuel-burning trucks or trains to different factories where they're made into everyday objects, then they're again transported by ship or plane or train or truck to the store, where I go to buy them. That's a hell of a lot of carbon being used! Even if I ethically bicycle to the store to do my shopping, that's only, at best, a 1% carbon savings over the amount of carbon that was required to get whatever I'm buying to the store in the first place.

But then I looked down at my bike and realized that it too followed the same high-carbon manufacturing trajectory to reach me when I bought it! And the tires on the wheels, and the steel in the frame, and the . . . well, it all just became too carbon-y to even ponder. Even worse, I just found out that the gasping and panting I do when bicycling is just another way of expelling carbon into the atmosphere! Has anybody calculated whether 20 minutes of heavy exhalations from bicycle riding produces more or less carbon than the three minutes of car exhaust it would take to travel the same distance? So much research is required! It's simply overwhelming.

Why only carbon?

It began to dawn on me that my carbon usage was just the tip of the iceberg. I was literally devouring the Earth little by little as I used up all the other elements as well! Forget about my carbon footprint: What about my aluminum footprint? My oxygen footprint? My plutonium footprint? If I want to be serious about "living lightly on the land," I feel that a complete inventory of ALL my elemental footprints is in order. And through that process, perhaps we all can learn to lower our footprints of each and every natural element.

Let us begin the inventory.

Iron Footprint

The Earth's very core is solid iron; when we use it up, it's like stabbing Mother Earth in the heart. And when I read that "Iron ore may be more integral to the global economy than any other commodity, except perhaps oil," I begin to understand that my consumption of iron is contributing to the existence and ongoing success of the capitalist economy. Shame! And when you think about all the smelting and melting and schmelting that goes on to turn iron ore into steel, you can see that the very creation of iron-based products is itself a major contributor to carbon usage too. So if I want to get serious about lowering my carbon footprint, I've got to lower my iron footprint first.

But where to begin? I look around, and it's hard to see anything that is entirely iron-free. Every vehicle, every machine, every appliance, every gadget, even the frickin' forks! The building I'm sitting in right now is held together with iron nails, fer chrissakes. There's no escape from the ubiquitous iron footprint!

And so, I resolve that: If I ever build a house, I'm going to do it like the old-school Japanese craftsmen, and design the whole thing to fit together without a single nail. Forks henceforth shall be abandoned in favor of bamboo chopsticks. And -- though this part will be admittedly a little more difficult -- I vow to shun any object that was ever transported in or created by a machine containing iron. If we want to ever smash the iron hegemony, the time to start is now!

Uranium Footprint

  Uranium footprint.
There are those who insist that the only way to lower your carbon footprint is to raise your uranium footprint. Hell, even Obama has started saying it! WTF??? When did the first "green president" become the first "glow-in-the-dark president"? Anybody remember a little place called Three Mile Island? I say that the choice between carbon-based energy and uranium-based energy is a false dichotomy! The key is to stop generating and using energy in any form. Even our current Science Czar John Holdren once pointed out that it's not greenhouse gases that will cause global warming, but simply excess energy generation itself, regardless of the source of the energy: "The remaining major means of interference with the global heat balance is the release of energy from fossil and nuclear fuels. As pointed out previously, all this energy is ultimately degraded to heat. What are today scattered local effects of its disposition will in time, with the continued growth of population and energy consumption, give way to global warming."

So, Mr. Obama, will you listen to your Science Czar for once? Why'd you bother appointing him anyway? All energy -- including nuclear energy -- is bad, and causes global warming! If this planet is to survive, we must decrease our uranium footprint. To that end, I will stop utilizing any electrical power, because my utility company (like many others) gets a substantial percentage of its energy from nuclear power plants -- and most of the rest from carbon sources.