17 February 2011

Should Environmental Action Hurt?

I just stumbled over a carbon footprint calculator that tells you how much carbon you can avoid spewing into the environment by making various lifestyle changes.

One of the sections available is drinking less. And I learned that if I cut out my habit of drinking a glass of wine or a little single malt once a week or so, I can reduce my carbon output by something like 266 pounds a year.

Context: if I ride my bike to work one day a week instead of driving, I save 2619 pounds of CO2.

More context: I've never in my life been drunk. Having a drink relaxes me a little at the end of the day, and I like the taste. I've gone weeks, months, sometimes years, without having a drink and without missing it.

But for some reason the idea that I should cut back leaves me feeling kind of whimpery.

Which raises another issue. If I'm already doing lots of things to try to reduce my environmental impact -- avoiding meat, trying to drive less, choosing fair trade coffee, living in a small apartment rather than a big house, even drinking relatively little alcohol -- what responsibility do I have to cut back further?

To what extent should changing our lives make us uncomfortable? Can we reverse, or even slow, climate change without collectively being very uncomfortable?