It was pretty warm before I left London in mid-December. Then New York was a bizarre 60°F (16°C) almost every day I was there, the feeling was quite incongruous with all of the winter holiday lights blazing. Leaves were still on many trees and the idea of a white Christmas seemed laughable.
At the end of the trip, on my way to Miami airport, I heard on the radio about a major ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic splitting off from Ellesmere Island. I then watched An Inconvenient Truth on the plane coming back to the UK and learned just how compelling the case for global warming was. I had always believed it, but never bother to fully inform myself about it. I’m a science journalist, but this is far from my beat.
Weirdly, though, the thing that tipped the balance and got me to actually do something happened last Thursday. I was walking through the Rose Garden in Hyde Park on my way to work, and was shocked to find that there were still roses there. Not just old ones that had managed to hang on, but new ones. I was so surprised I got out my PDA and took some pictures.
That night I went on to the Climate Crisis website and then tried several of carbon footprint calculators to find out the size of my own contribution to this problem. I was horrified to find that I was almost as bad as the average American. I try pretty hard to be a good citizen environmentally: I use the backs of printed sheets of paper instead of notebooks, recycle despite the lack of decent services in my area, buy recycled products whenever I can, and use rechargeable batteries in my radios. On top of that, I have no car and a small flat that’s well insulated.
However, (as you may have gathered) I fly back and forth across the Atlantic a fair bit for both business and personal reasons, and that makes me part of the problem. Call it Western guilt, but I decided to go pay up to make myself carbon neutral at CarbonFund.org. Cost about $220 for a clean conscience for my entire household for 2007. This will, I understand, plant lots of carbon-absorbing trees.
I know this is not the real answer: I have to consume less rather than just pay more. And I’m trying. But as someone who inherited a family that is spread across North America, Europe, and even Asia—and is part of a profession that requires travelling to where the sci/tech action is—it’s not always possible to take the train…
Photo top: Old roses are still hanging on in London’s Hyde Park, despite it being January.
Photo bottom: Roses are not just hanging on, there are new buds and blossoms too. The gardener told me that he’d never seen these May Gold roses (usually the first out in the spring) bloom in January. He was especially surprised to see them as he’d cut the bush back hard in the autumn.
Originally posted on Sunny Bains unedited.