Personal and societal aspects of your carbon footprint
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- Make specific observations about your calculations of your own carbon footprint as an American based on your life using this site: http://www.footprintcalculator.org/
- Please choose the “Add Details To Improve Accuracy” option you see just below the sliding scale to get a more accurate overall assessment of your carbon footprint.
- Summarize the results and not just the results in terms of how many earths it would take if everyone lived like you, but the more detailed results related to your lifestyle.
- Include specific questions , 2 and more if possible.
- – Do you think the American way of life is sustainable?
- – How many earths are necessary to sustain people who live the way we do as Americans?
- – What are your thoughts about the societal and personal aspects of your carbon footprint associated with the “American way of life,”and what moral questions does this pose for us, as Americans?
* 2-3 paragraph would be enough, no more than 300 words.
Please read the following that provides the perspective and information for thinking about the societal aspect of global warming in relation to American society.
The personal part of your carbon footprint would include your eating habits, how much you drive and fly, what you consume (clothes, electronics, kitchen items, luxuries, and so on), how much water you use, including the hidden water usage in the products you eat and buy, the size & type of your residence, among other factors. The personal part of your carbon footprint is crucial for us to recognize because that is the part we can most directly affect through changes in our lifestyle choices. For example, significantly reducing your intake of beef will improve the personal part of your carbon footprint, and living in a smaller, more efficient residence will also help.
Societal aspects of our carbon footprint are based on the country we live in and we are all assigned a portion of that in our carbon footprint. We don’t have direct influence over societal impacts, like we do over personal aspects of our carbon footprint. Yet the societal parts of our carbon footprint are one reason why it is extremely difficult for an American to get to a truly sustainable level of living regardless of how much we change our personal habits and use. The only conclusion is that our disproportionate contributions to global warming are not just a result of our personal use, but of living in American society, and if we are going to live truly sustainable lives, then our society needs to change with us.
This means that we also need to become politically & socially involved in order to seek positive changes in our society. Weaning ourselves off the use of fossil fuels and demanding affordable and accessible options for renewable sources of energy is a good start.
What about the absence in the U.S. of useful, practical, and affordable mass transportation? We don’t just choose to drive cars; we drive cars because our society has been constructed so that we simply can’t function efficiently without a car, and for most of us alternative or mass transportation is either not available or not realistic. These factors have made the U.S. one of the most car-centered societies in the world, but does it have to be this way? Here’s a list of 10 countries in terms of car ownership per 1,000 people. In the U.S. a bit over 90% of the population is covered by car ownership. Comparing this with other developed countries is especially helpful because their economic and social development is closer to that of the U.S. than countries like India or Brazil or Nicaragua.
Car Ownership per 1,000 People
U.S. – 910 cars per 1,000 people
Canada – 662 cars per 1,000 people
France – 578 cars per 1,000 people
Germany – 572 cars per 1,000 people
United Kingdom – 519 cars per 1,000 people
Denmark – 480 cars per 1,000 people
Israel – 383 cars per 1,000 people
Russia – 324 cars per 1,000 people
China – 154 cars per 1,000 people
India – 50 cars per 1,000 people
Other societies make mass transportation, or alternative transportation, more practical than using a car. And there is no reason why the U.S. couldn’t do the same thing.
American society is also dominated by large chain stores importing commodities from very distant places involving considerable use of fossil fuels for transport. As consumers of those goods, we have responsibility for that use of extra resources. For example, Safeway is a huge, brightly lit, climate controlled interior space with large refrigerator and freezer spaces all requiring quite a bit of energy to run. Air-conditioned in the summer, with automatic doors constantly opening to the hot outdoors – buildings like that are not energy efficient. In comparison, buying food from local outdoor markets entails almost no transportation from grower to buyer, a very minimal use of fossil fuel to get food to the consumer, and no need of a huge building space to maintain and heat and cool.
Another societal impact on our carbon footprint is the U.S. Military that not only uses a disproportionate percentage of the Federal Budget (about 60%), but is also a major contributor to carbon emissions and pollution. Just imagine the amount of carbon emissions and pollution from the decade long U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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