I just finished another guilt-inducing article on the environment
that had two main points. First and foremost, it appears I am
personally responsible for the global warming crisis and the
resulting, unavoidable death and destruction. Second, no matter what
I do, or how I change my lifestyle, it will never be enough.

Much of the “frantic” messaging we are receiving reminds me of the
conflicting dietary messages from one decade to the next. Eggs are
good for you, eggs will kill you. Drink a glass of milk a day – if
you want to cut short your life. Alcohol is bad, except for the
glass of wine a day you should drink to live to be over 100 years
old. Early on I paid attention, but eventually, I simply tuned out
the back-and-forth between competing dietary “experts” and the
resulting media hysteria. Not surprisingly, the answer (simply
enough) appears to have been moderation, a lesson that would serve us
well now.

We are bombarded daily by dictates on how to live our lives to leave
the smallest possible “carbon footprint.” I understand why people
intuitively think “big cars, bad,” but then I watch my kids and their
friends take three cars to the beach when all eight of them could
have fit into comfortably into my SUV. I realize that ethanol may
save the planet but I worry about reports that the inefficient use of
corn to produce ethanol is driving the price of corn (and
subsequently many of our food staples) through the roof and will lead
to the starvation of millions.

I know that nuclear energy (which to the environmentally ignorant
among us seems like a possible solution) is morally wrong and
everything European is good. Then I read that France (and who says
“Western Europe” more than the French?) has more than 50 nuclear
power plants and gets more than 75% of their electricity from nuclear
power. I am switching to earth-saving light bulbs, but they don’t
fit in all my fixtures and I’m having trouble getting the carbon
footprint information on lamp manufacturing, so I’m not sure if I
should replace them or not.

Don’t get me wrong; I have a variety of different colored trashcans
for recycling, a compost heap and less grass in my yard than I did
years ago. I have turned down the heat, bought sweaters and
installed low-flow toilets. My shower delivers an uncomfortable –
but environmentally friendly – dribble of water and we now own our
own reusable shopping bags.

However, there is a limit. At a recent family gathering, a loved one
questioned our menu. First, the choice of a New Zealand wine was
assailed. Did I have any idea of the waste involved in shipping this
bottle from New Zealand to my environmentally unfriendly table? Then
on to on the main course… we were serving meat, an obvious no-no for
anyone who really cares about the earth and our children. A long
lecture followed. I wanted to quote comedian Ron White: “I didn’t
climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots,” but my wife
places a very high value on family harmony at these events, so I
swallowed the comment, along with my steak.

Our meal having been dissected, analyzed and critiqued, attention
turned to the driveway. I was berated for driving a gas-guzzling
SUV. We also own a gas-sipping Mini-Cooper, perhaps the most
honestly named vehicle of all-time, but that wasn’t enough. When I
said I needed the SUV to pull our boat, it was suggested that if I
really cared, I would sell the boat.

That’s when it hit me. It will never be enough. If you examine
America’s environmental progress over 20 years ago, the improvements
are admirable. But for the true environmental fanatics, it will not
be enough until we are living naked in caves, without fire (do you
know what burning a log does to the environment!?) and certainly
without resource-consuming children.

Allow me to state what many of us feel. Give me reasonable choices
and options that will benefit the environment, while at the same time
respecting the fact that a decent meal, a comfortable home, a car not
built for a contortionist, and a shower that actually removes the
soap does not make me a bad person. I wear size 11 shoes and I’m
afraid that in living a civilized lifestyle, I’m going to leave a bit
of a carbon footprint. Cut me a little slack and I’ll look into
getting some new light fixtures. Deal?