I see that the organizers of the Carl Dolan circuit race are making it a carbon-neutral event. You can become carbon neutral by one of two methods - dying, or buying "carbon offsets" from a firm that becomes fabulously wealthy by selling you a notional reduction in carbon dioxide production, in order to save the Earth, and to assuage your vague sense of guilt that you should be doing something, big, something important like saving the earth, but enlisting in the Marines or selling your Ford Explorer and riding a bike or walking everywhere is just too much to ask. Have you ever tried to get a case of beer on a bike? Only the Surly guys do that, and we all know they are crazy.
The way it works: The carbon offset firms buy carbon dioxide reductions from carbon dioxide producers (like powerplants), who can sell the credits by agreeing to abstain from producing carbon dioxide. Say a coal fueled power plant could notionally produce a million tons of carbon dioxide every year. But the firm decides to go green, and therefore has a million tons of pollution it could possibly abstain from producing. In order to meet your emotional needs, and the earth's environmental needs (which are about as objectively measurable, given existing science) you pay the carbon offsets firm to pay the power producer to not produce CO2.
In this way, it's a bit like the federal government paying farmers to not produce anything. The rationale behind that is keeping arable land un-tilled keeps prices high, and keeps farmers rich. The direct payments don't hurt either, apparently; numerous celebrities have purchased non-farms as investments, which they then proceed to non-cultivate, in order to cash in. This makes one wonder how carbon offsets are calculated. It's possible to become rich not farming, collecting money for not living off the fruits of the land, all the while not sending food to market for the masses to not consume, thereby not sating their hunger. Anyhow, I wonder how far you have to go to generate an offset. (Or to not generate it, really). For instance, if a coal burning plant abstains from throwing in a shovel full of coal, is that worth an offset? Or if one of the giants in the power generation world decides to not build a plant, even though they could, does that generate offsets? Would they need to at least have a permit to build the plant before they could create offsets by not producing power? What about if Al Gore jets all around the world, lives on an estate that doesn't look shabby compared to Biltmore House, heats the joint by piling one piece of old growth redwood after another onto the fire, and then lectures us about global warming but refuses to debate it with reputable climatologists who disagree with him - does the CO2 he avoids producing by dodging open debate offset conspicuous production lifestyle?
But I digress.
My disappointment with the Carl Dolan organizers is while they are querying where we are driving from, whether we are car pooling and so forth, is they haven't asked some key questions about us. For instance, I am a fat bastard. It takes more energy for me to get around a circuit race course than for somebody smaller, like my friend Scott. In the course of producing that additional power, I consume more oxygen and emit more CO2 than Scott. Who is supposed to make up the slack for my lardbutt? Shouldn't I be made to pay more due to my enhanced huffing and puffing, which comes from riding at threshold on the hill when others are merely riding at Tempo? Don't the skinny guys abuse Mother Earth less? I'm feeling guilty here. How about varying Gu consumption during the races? Some people eat a Gu or two mid race, others don't. That stuff takes energy to produce, and if you're one of the Gaia-beaters who eats Gu in a short race, you should have to pay more. What about the ambulances for the inevitable crashes (shouldn't you pay more if you plan on crashing?), the spectators, and the traffic changes caused by people having to alter their paths because a lovely 2.1 mile rolling circuit, with no technical turns and a short big ring climb, is closed, causing detours?
It just doesn't seem fair. It's great they are going a little carbon neutral, but there's so much more they can do to help Mother Earth out here, before she gets really angry at us for cars and airplanes and warm houses and cow farts and breathing and stuff, and just kills us all. It's the height of hypocrisy to say your are carbon neutral, but then fail to ask about my weight and to calculate the additional amount of CO2 that I will generate riding around the course, and I'm not sure I want to be a part of that EarthCrime.
I really need to thank the race organizers for making me think about this. I hadn't considered how badly my bicycle racing abuses the Earth. Is This tempo Ride Necessary? Man, even on my bike commute, I generate scads of CO2. I don't want to be a part of this Earth Abuse any more, and think I may have to skip Carl Dolan, and stay home. It's called "monkeywrenching," right, where we refuse to be a part of crimes against the natural world? After all a range of groups that deeply care about the environment have just asked the Supreme Court to decree that CO2 is a pollutant, which would make it subject to regulation under various federal regulations. You know what that means? When we ride our bikes and start churning out CO2, you and I are just like Union Carbide Chemical in Bhopal, just on a smaller scale. Maybe it's time to put the bike up and stop polluting at such a high rate. I don't want to make Gaia cry any more... do you?*
*This post has been satirized for your protection (and updated to take out certain errors in grammar I made at 6:00 AM while drafting it). While I believe the Earth warms as a trend and cools at times as well, I am fairly certain that we don't have a clue how much effect man's activity has on global warming and cooling, outside of microclimates (urban heat bubbles and the like) and am also fairly certain that most of the climate models don't do a very good predictive job. Yep, I believe that good stewardship of the earth is a basic human responsibility (which goes along with those basic human rights) but think that before we should re-order society around a politician's PowerPoint briefing, we ought to actually be certain that our utopian plan is based on reasonably stable facts, rather than on one side of a set of dueling hypotheses filled in with a lot of "assume that..." What's more, is I get the impression that a lot of people who are interested in this reordering of society aren't into it with genuine environmental motivation, but instead appreciate the current debate for the opportunity it presents to gain control over many aspects of our daily lives. The first line of my civic religious creed is, "the government is best, that governs least." I see this current debate, where actual debate isn't permitted (go ahead, call me a 'denier') as framing an 'argument,' the only possible answer to which is "the government needs to closely control many more areas of your life." I am for the opposite of that, preserving the maximum amount of individual liberty that is possible, and there's no room for that in a debate where one side are arguing that disagreement with them on any given point probably ought to be criminalized. As some wise men once said, "know your rights," especially #3. No, I don't work for oil companies, nor do they give me any money, and in fact the stick it to me on a regular basis every time I put gas in my car, or turn on the heat at home to keep from freezing to death.
Here ends today's sermon/rant. We now return to our regularly scheduled bicycle-mad programming.
[Update: Of course I registered for the race. I despise the politicization of everyday life, I ride the bike to get away from that kind of stuff. It would be pretty dumb of me to obliquely hammer on DC Velo for making a political statement with their race, and then make a political statement by not going. So of course I'll go, do the race, and in all likelihood get dropped like a bad habit. Which is pathetical, not political.]