NYC ninety years from now, if warming trends continue and seas rise to match ancient levels with the same temp
Since it’s EARTH DAY, I would like to take this occasion to be a complete asshole. “How does that differ from any other day?” you might ask, and you’d be right. But I’m getting sick and tired of various emailers and commenters giving me shit for “driving across country to see a basketball game” and various other would-be transgressions, so I’m going to lay it all on the table, and whoever doesn’t like it can take their best shot.
First off, I drive. A lot. I drive more than you do. The realities of having lives on both coasts has historically meant getting back and forth via car, which would seemingly make me a hypocrite, what with all my hoo-hah about peak oil and global warming. But you’d be wrong on several accounts.
Those who don’t like NUMB3RS can skip this paragraph, but let’s take airlines at their word: a 747-400 plane cruises at 576 mph (927 km/h), burns 12,788 liters (3378 US gallons) of fuel per hour, and carries 409 passengers when full. Even if you take the percentages down a notch for the usual Boeing 767 I’d fly to New York (and corresponding lack of passengers), we’re still looking at a PERSONAL rating of 52.2 mpg per person, assuming the plane is 75% full.
With the Prius, I average about 49.5 mpg on cross-country trips, which means taking a plane is only 2.7 mpg more efficient. Given that these numbers can fluctuate due to head winds, idling endlessly on tarmacs and various other things, I think we can safely call this one a wash.
“But lo!” you cry, “the plane is ALREADY GOING to New York!” True enough, but that’s circular logic. Every person on that hypothetical plane bears the responsibility for its gas usage. They made that choice, not me. If they all decided to not take the plane, then the airline wouldn’t fly it.
But let’s bring this back into the real world. If I take a plane from NYC to California, I’m stuck in LA without a car. Which means renting one to the tune of $1200/month (if you include the same insurance we get with our own car). If we’re here for five months (like last year), that’s $6000. Not to mention the rental car will average 20 mpg – thirty mpg less than the Prius. Thus my plane flight will cause me to pump EVEN MORE carbon into the atmosphere.
It doesn’t make any sense, either financially or environmentally, so unless you can prove to me otherwise, perhaps some of you can find another aspect of my personality to criticize.
While we’re at it, let me lay some more cards on the table. In one way or another, we keep three different residences. The farm upstate generates all its own electricity through solar panels, and in fact, we sell power back to the electric company. In Brooklyn, our apartment is powered entirely by wind and water. Even our sublet in Los Angeles is powered entirely by wind, geothermal, biomass and solar.
Yes, our car runs on more than just distilled gallons of smug superiority. We’ve calculated how much we’ve driven and “neutralized” our impact on the atmosphere through the Presidio’s School of Management (and Chicago Climate Exchange) excellent program DriveNeutral. There are a lot of sites that can negate your car’s impact on the climate, like TerraPass, and another one we use, Carbonfund.org. With Carbonfund, we took all our plane flights, all our heating/cooking/living from our various places and brought our little family down to ZERO CARBON for about $12 a month.
“WHOOPTY FUCKING DOO you self-righteous PRICK,” I hear you say, but tell me, what the fuck are YOU doing? It took less than 20 minutes to switch our apartments over to green power, and it costs, like, 1/2 cent per kilowatt more. For the price of three combos at McDonald’s, you can negate your carbon impact on the planet each month. I don’t expect any of you to get solar panels until they become more cost-appropriate, but this shit is so painfully easy with the internet, why couldn’t you do just a little tiny something for Earth Day?
The conservatives will make more fun of me and keep on driving whatever they want to drive and offer alternative websites showing that America gains if Greenland melts. Honestly, those who deny climate change remind me of Jewish families who wouldn’t flee Germany in 1938.
I’d love to be wrong about this, in fact, I’m planning on being wrong about this. You can call me whatever you want, and you’re free to think as you will, but the one thing you’ll never be able to say is that you weren’t warned.
top: current view of NYC with my apt. marked red and Sean’s apt. marked green; bottom: a storm surge on top of a three-foot sea rise – my brother is under water, but I’ve got beachfront, baby!