Friday, 4 January 2008

What Success Means

Late last night I listened to the news reports from the Iowa Caucuses. Senator John Edwards, a democratic candidate, was making a commitment to the American people to focus on making them successful. Of course, this is par for the course for any candidate for office.

Something he said made me sit up and listen. He defined the promised success in an interesting way. He talked about the many generations of Americans who had improved their country for their children. Implicit in this was the idea of leaving our children better off than us. From my perspective, this is an excellent definition of success.

Unfortunately, to many of us today our definition of success is short-term. Success means a job with higher pay and more status. Success means several expensive holidays to far flung locations. Success means the large and luxurious car. In short, we define our success by the accumulation of consumer goods and by our ability to purchase yet more of them.

In a world that is resource constrained and that is suffering significant environmental damage due to our consumption, there may be a case for a new definition.

Perhaps John Edwards hit the nail on the head. Perhaps we should start to consider the future prosperity of our children when we think about success. For sure, we need to do all we can to maintain a stable environment and ample resources to allow our children and children's children to enjoy a peaceful and long life. Success for them will be impossible without this.

Following on from Jamal's challenge to reduce our carbon footprint, I'd like to issue this challenge; use the beginning of 2008 to re-evaluate your personal definition of success. Look at your decisions with a longer time frame in mind and make choices based on a balance of success now, and success in the future. Many businesses and individuals have already taken this challenge and are finding that change isn't painful, and very often brings huge benefits.

Time to take the challenge?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Carbon Clear Resolutions

The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reports that only 15% of Britons resolved to reduce their carbon footprint in 2008. That number seems surprisingly low; perhaps many people simply felt this resolution - like most - would be difficult to keep.

One reason that New Year's resolutions are hard to keep is that they are often phrased as overall goals instead of specific, easy to accomplish tasks. I recommend taking a relatively vague resolution like "reduce my carbon footprint", and breaking it up into easy-to-accomplish physical actions.

Defra provides a laundry list of typical lower-carbon measures that can reduce your carbon impact. These include riding your bike to work instead of driving, installing low-energy lightbulbs, and turning the thermostat down by one degree. This list is a good start, but may not be enough to help everyone keep those resolutions.

The problem is that we often face a series of barriers that must be overcome before we can do the thing we want. In other words, that action (ride bike to work), is actually an entire project. In order to ride my bike to work, I may need to:
  1. Take the bike to the local shop for a tune-up;
  2. Buy a rain jacket, waterproof gloves, and a bike light;
  3. Identify a safe cycling route between home and work; and
  4. Find a secure place to lock the bike during the day.
And "ride my bike to work" was not even the main New Year's resolution! No wonder these resolutions are so hard to keep.

In order to make progress on the transition to a low-carbon future, we have to set realistic and creative goals, and then lay out the specific steps to achieve that goal.

So here's a challenge: look at Defra's list of suggestions for a low-carbon New Year's Resolution and break it into manageable chunks. Sketch out the specific, tangible steps that you will need to take in order to make each one happen.

Next, take out a calendar and write each of those steps in for a specific date. Before you know it, you'll be ticking off those steps and making real progress towards keeping your New Year's Resolution.

At Carbon Clear, we're dedicated to helping you control your carbon impact, in 2008 and beyond. Visit our website to learn what else you can do at home and at work.

Happy New Year from Carbon Clear

Welcome to 2008.

For a long time, the climate change debate seems to have been about whether or not there is a problem, and whether humanity has caused it. Thankfully, 2007 saw even steadfast global warming skeptics acknowledge that this debate is over.

Now a new debate is underway.

On the one hand is a faction that claims we have already reached a "tipping point", and that it's too late to prevent serious climate change. Some people making this claim argue that we should shift our focus to adaptating to the impacts of living in a warmer world.

On the other hand are people who say that it's not too late, and who applaud the future-oriented targets of the recent Bali climate negotiations, the UK Climate Change Bill and elsewhere - with targets that reach to 2050 and beyond.

Either way, this debate means not enough effort right now to reduce our carbon impact.

Choosing to tackle climate change isn't an "either-or" decision, it's a matter of degree. We have a lot of choices to make:

  • We have a choice over how much we want to fight global warming;
  • We have a choice over how much energy we use, what type, and at what cost;
  • We have a choice about how we want to work, travel, live and play;
  • We have a choice over what kind of world we want to leave for our children, our friends, and the rest of humanity.
These are not difficult choices. Taking the carbon out of our lives does not have to be painful. On balance, the benefits - of which there are many - far outweigh the costs.

The Carbon Clear team is determined to speed businesses, governments, and individuals on the path to a low-carbon future. Everyone needs to control his or her carbon impact. Carbon Clear is here to help.

(To the Carbon Clear homepage)