I often tell my kids that the most important thing you can do with your life is enjoy it. Life is way shorter than you think, and if you blow your precious days coming up with fake reasons to feel anxious or guilty, you have no one to blame but yourself. Instead, count your blessings and seize every minute.
Then there is the progressive approach to life. I think that the whole progressive philosophy boils down to coming up with fake reasons to feel anxious and/or guilty in order to prevent any and all enjoyment of life. You worked hard and made some money? Then you have caused income inequality! You had a delicious steak for dinner? Then you have caused the degradation of the environment and you are ruining your own health! I’m sure that readers can come up with dozens more such examples.
How to explain this phenomenon? Could it be that there is some dark, twisted pleasure in creating fake guilt for yourself so that you can wallow in it and feel miserable? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s the best hypothesis I’ve got. However, this I do know: There is definitely much pleasure to be had in watching progressives wallowing in their guilt and sapping all the joy out of their lives. This can be quite entertaining.
A great example of the genre is an article that appeared in the Travel section of the New York Times over the weekend. The headline (in the online version) is “If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?”, and the author is Andy Newman. This was not just any old article, but the lead article, occupying the entire front page and the entire back page of the section. It had the official New York Times imprimatur as the most important thing happening in the world of travel right now. So what is the official word?
To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times. Something that seemed like pure escape and adventure has become double-edged, harmful, the epitome of selfish consumption. Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
Yes, while you weren’t looking, the entire field of travel just went from exciting and fun to harmful and selfish and guilt-inducing. Do you think that your own pitiful little carbon emissions are so small that they can’t really add up to anything meaningful in the big picture? To the contrary, some official progressive “climate scientists” can bring the guilt right down to the individual level:
[I]t turns out there are ways to quantify your impact on the planet, at least roughly. In 2016, two climatologists published a paper in the prestigious journal Science showing a direct relationship between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice. Each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent — your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3 square meters, or 32 square feet, the authors, Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, found.
And the guilt gets even worse from there. A professor John Nolt of the University of Tennessee offers up this calculation:
“The average American causes through his/her greenhouse gas emissions the serious suffering and/or deaths of two future people.”
But don’t worry, there are indulgences to be purchased. Carbon offsets!
Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins. You give a broker some money (not a lot of money either — carbon offsets can be bought for $10 per metric ton). They give it to someone to plant trees, or capture the methane from a landfill or a cattle operation, or help build a wind farm, or subsidize clean cookstoves for people in the developing world who cook on open fires. All these things help cut greenhouse gas.
Sure enough, Mr. Newman has planned a trip to Paris and Greece for this summer, and he informs us that he has purchased sufficient of these “carbon offsets” to cover the trip. Nothing to it!
But wait. Why can’t the U.S. government just take care of this for everybody? Total U.S. annual carbon emissions are given by the EPA as about 6.5 billion metric tons; and, after accounting for “sinks” (e.g., trees), only about 5.7 billion metric tons. That would mean that with the pricing that Newman gives the government could buy us all out of this whole “carbon emissions” “climate crisis” thing for around $57 billion per year. $57 billion is only about 0.28% of GDP, or about 1.4% of the federal budget. It’s a rounding error! Why again are we considering the multi-trillion dollar re-do of our entire energy delivery system, and bringing in intermittent energy sources that promise to multiply everyone’s energy bills by 10 or 20 or more?
Meanwhile, out there in the world of the truly guilty, we have our ex-mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has mercifully decided not to run for President. Climate Depot had a report back in February about Mayor Mike’s carbon footprint, which makes those of other climate activists like Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio look puny by comparison: a $30 million Dassault Falcon private jet that Bloomberg flies back and forth to Bermuda a couple of times a month; an Agusta SPA A109s six-seater helicopter that burns 72 gallons of fuel for each hour of use; a high-performance Audi R8 sports car; ten houses, including a 12,500 square foot double townhouse in Manhattan, a 6,000 square foot place in Bermuda, and of course, a 22,000 square foot place in the Hamptons; and so forth.
So where can we find Mayor Mike lately? Last week he was at MIT giving the commencement address. And of course, he used the occasion to proselytize for huge action of some kind to “save the planet” from the climate crisis:
[O]ur most important and pressing mission – your generation's mission – . . . is to save our own planet. . . . The race we are in is against time, and we are losing. And with each passing year, it becomes clearer just how far behind we've fallen, how fast the situation is deteriorating, and how tragic the results can be. . . . If left unchecked, the climate change crisis threatens to destroy oceanic life that feeds so many people on this planet. It threatens to breed war by spreading drought and hunger. It threatens to sink coastal communities, devastate farms and businesses, and spread disease. . . .
Wow, Mike. I guess you must feel really, really guilty. I don’t think that a few thousand tons of carbon emissions offsets are going to do it for you. And indeed, Bloomberg used his MIT speech to announce the biggest climate change indulgence of all time, a $500 million initiative called “Beyond Carbon,” supposedly to bring renewable energy to the world. But how? Is he going to invest in the renewable energy himself? For the most part, of course not. It seems that this $500 million is to be used mostly to partner with environmental groups like the Sierra Club to lobby governments to somehow force them to do the heavy lifting. After all, that’s the progressive’s solution to every human problem.