Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Carbon Cycle

The daily commute is something most people dread. Living in Glenageary and spending 5 days a week in college in the city centre, I spend approximately 90 minutes a day on buses (if I’m lucky and dodge the traffic!) which amounts to a whopper 450 minutes a week sitting on an over-crowded bus listening to other peoples music bleeding from their headphones. It’s time I loath to waste, but it’s not just time that I’m wasting.
My bus journeys make me accountable for about 20km of CO2 production weekly! Inspired by the clearing of the rainclouds and the signals that we may actually begin to experience something resembling Spring, I set myself what seemed like an achievable task: to forgo the buses for a week and instead cycle to college for the week. It seemed like a win/win situation: I’d be using a carbon neutral form of transport and I’d be saving on bus fare. “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” I asked myself as I set off on a crisp March Monday morning.
“Why doesn’t everyone do this?”

About an hour later, as I arrived panting into college, feeling like my legs were about to burst into flames, I found the answer to my own question: This is hard! Every tweak we make to our lives to make them more sustainable requires us making sacrifices.
I believe, in the developed world we are so accustomed to a plethora of amenities and indulgences which work their way into becoming part of our day-to-day lives. Removing even the smallest of these from your routine, is a huge shock to the system. It’s a change that can take a huge amount of adjustment to our daily routine and an element of sacrifice. Therefore, people living comfortable, perhaps financially sustainable lifestyles just simply can’t be bothered. Why go without when making a sacrifice which results in decreasing your carbon footprint puts extra strain or discomfort in your life when the benefits cannot be immediately seen?
It is an uphill battle that environmentalists face: convincing those so consumed with the present that they are directly contributing to the destruction of our future. The allure of immediate gratification is hard to compete with, however we must persevere and accept that seemingly small individual sacrifices now amount to huge collective benefit in the future.
This is a lesson I’ve heard many times, but only really rang true with me when I decided to make a personal sacrifice for the good of the environment in which I live. Taking the bus was by far the easier, passive option. But I had to ask myself, can I afford to knowingly be that selfish and not feel guilty? The answer was no. I’ve persevered with the cycling with some exceptions here and there (there’s no accounting for torrential downpour!) and have willingly made an achievable sacrifice for the greater good. Not to mention the bus fare I’m saving!
Stephen Lehane

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