Dec 302010

Post by Mike Skehan*

One ton of CO2

In a surprise move today, the EPA determined the Human species would be extinct by the year ….     Wait, wait, that’s not true.   Besides, if it were, there’s nothing I can do about it.

Let’s back up a moment, because total failure is just too big to wrap my head around.  Let’s talk about ‘Carbon Neutrality’.  Each of us consumes carbon that’s been created over millions of years, and converts it into something else – like CO2 gas that’s not so good for our atmosphere.  This all contributes to a warmer planet, leading to all sorts of change on a global scale, that…  Wait, wait, even that’s too big for me to grasp.

OK, let’s try this.  The Internet provides all sorts of ‘Carbon Footprint’ calculators to determine how much of this carbon we each consume, in my case, a family of two, traveling a modest amount, and not being a vegetarian, it’s about 20 tons of CO2 per year.  Now this isn’t helping one little bit.  I wouldn’t recognize a truckload of carbon dioxide gas if it ran over me. Still too big a concept.

How about just me?

I burn electricity to heat and light my house and drive to town about once a week.  I eat food from Bellingham, which I carry home by the bag load.  Most of the energy required to make the electricity, gasoline, and food comes out of the ground from things that died millions of years ago.  At the end of the day, I released about 110 pound of gas into the atmosphere.  To be carbon neutral, I either have to consume less energy or find an alternate way to produce the heat, light, fuel and food that I demand or find a way to offset my habits, like convincing somebody in Brazil to not cut down his 40 acres of rain forest.  Well, here I go again into fuzzy math land.

I guess to be carbon neutral I either have to quit eating, or find other food sources that don’t have to be fertilized in Oklahoma, and trucked to Fred Meyer’s.  Riding a bike to town would be helpful, and maybe living in a straw bail house with skylights and having a coppiced wood forest in the backyard would get me down to near zero.

But what about my neighbor?

His truck can’t be getting over 10 mpg, and I swear the lights burn 24/7, so should I be thinking about being carbon negative to offset his very positive behavior?  No, he’s a really nice guy, and might even listen to some crank ideas, if I show the way – IF I knew the way!  And just how do I propose to be carbon negative, without writing a check to some organization that says they know how?

No, if this carbon thing is going to work for me, I have to be able to see it.  Maybe a couple of potatoes coming out of the ground, or perhaps watching my wind turbine spin, and filling up the batteries on my golf cart I ride around in.  But how practical are those measures?

So many questions, yet so few answers.

* Guest submissions are welcome. Email to


  13 Responses to “EPA Places Humans on the Endangered Species List”

  1. So Lummi Island launches one of those orange balloons about every 45 minutes, 24/7
    Bellingham is launching balloons every 1.4 minutes,
    and Seattle is sending up a balloon of CO2 every second, all day, every day. I get it!

  2. Here is an interesting interview concerning our brave new world from back in 1958:

  3. HI Mike, is you figure out how many balloons per minute/second?

  4. I used 25 tons of CO2/year per household times the households, then figured how often you’d have to launch a balloon. Very rough, but it gets the point across of LOTS of balloons rising.

  5. I think in the movie “The Age of Stupid” a young English couple goes about trying to achieve a neutral carbon balance each year. They lived off wind power, grew vegies, recycled, composted, raised chickens, walked/bicycled everywhere. Their one plane flight from London to Paris for a vacation set them back 4 years in self imposed carbon credits.

  6. Here is a graphic slide show about the ruins of Detroit. Click the arrows to advance the slides.

  7. Detroit.

    Holy crap!!

  8. Interesting article today concerning the World food supply:

  9. Here’s a Jan 2011 article with a different take on Detroit. We shouldn’t be surprised. Just like nature has spring (birth/re-birth), summer (growth), fall (fruition and winding-down) winter (rest, waiting), so do human endeavors, including cities. Why even parts of Seattle, a very new city, is built on top of earlier ruins.

    Decay & re-birth are parts of the sustainability story.

  10. See: The Psychology of Previous Investment

  11. \
    That’s 1/3 of our corn to supply less than 10% of our motor fuel needs. That wont be sustainable. Tractors, trucks, and refridgerators all run on that fuel too, hence again, higher food prices.

    Comforting complement to the other gorgeous Detroit photos. I’ve seen that gentrification happen in SF and Santa Cruz, CA; all that charming non-profit sweat equity getting sold out from locals who had creative control of neglected neighborhoods, only to realize later that only ‘official’ stake-holders get to keep the results. Anyone attempting it should make sure that rent control is in place first. Getting neighborhoods rezoned for multi-use first would be useful too, rather than counting on being ignored by enforcement.

    That’s one blessing you island folks may be taking for granted. The rest of the nation generally isn’t allowed to raise produce for sale in their backyard, build rocking chairs in their garage, and sell jelly and used books from their living room. – The only other zoning which comes close to Rural Residential Island in Bellingham is the rare ‘hotel and craft business’ zoning, and there’s only one property way up Mt. Baker available with that at the moment.

    Now that I think of it, that would be a hugely important first step in the sustainability transition movement everywhere – to make it legal.

  12. Kristal Rose
    You are starting to make more and more sense. When will we see you on Lummi Island?

  13. Thanks for the welcome.

    I was hoping to take care of some last So.Cal. summer bicycle camping trips first, but having spotted a nice property already, I might have to forego that. In spite of 27 years of college – eccentricity & sleep disorders, my son’s suicide, and business competion spoiling years of electronic-music R&D, haven’t left me in a position to buy, so the decision rests on convincing my parents that L.I. is the best Bellingham investment.

    Possibly in three months, otherwise I’ll at least be a local mainlander before the year is over.

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