Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hans Noeldner, Guest Post

Noeldner is a Village of Oregon, WI trustee, energy and environmental activist and member of Gov. Jim Doyle's Task Force On Global Warming.

In the spirit of the New Year and all those resolutions, he produced this commentary:

What is your environmental “footprint” on Earth? You can find calculators online and worksheets in study guides, but there is a far more direct way to comprehend it: just look at what is below you during your day.

Do you see your feet striding through the grasses and forbs of a meadow, or wending their way along a woodland trail, or pacing rows of crops in a farm field?

Do you see the floor of a building? Is the building yours alone, or do you share it with others?

Does it rise upwards with multiple stories to minimize the area of Earth that is denied natural life by its foundation?

Or does it sprawl laterally to suffocate a square foot of soil for every square foot of interior space?

Do you see a sidewalk or a bike path? Are you alone or amidst a bustling throng? Will fifty paces bring you to your next destination? Will 100 revolutions of the pedals fetch you home?

Do you see the footrest of a bus or train? Are the other seats mostly full or mostly empty? How many miles of track or lane do you travel on your daily and weekly errands?

Do you see a runway, and then the whole landscape below wincing from the deafening blast of the engines that thrust you skyward? Can you envision thousands of miles of carbon dioxide contrails in your wake?

Do you see a gas pedal beneath your foot? Do you sit alone or share your car with others? Is it a small vehicle, or a big one whose menacing footprint extends far beyond its bumpers? How much pavement do you pass over as you go?

Do you see your destinations scattered over many blocks and miles, isolated from one another in congealed lakes of asphalt parking? Can you see how this arrangement makes it convenient for you to drive, but difficult or impossible for others to walk?

If you are going often, going far, and most importantly, going so fast that everything in your way seems an obstacle, stop and ask yourself, “MUST I go to all these places?

Can I choose fewer, shorter, and narrower paths? Can I walk in the modest footprints of others, and can others walk in mine?”

How might we live so that far more often we find ourselves already where we want to be?

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