One day, I found myself day-dreaming about my latest involvements with a favorite environmental organization. I began to feel smug as I counted all the things the organization was doing to educate people about the environment and help make our planet a better place. The self-congratulatory tone of my thoughts soon changed as I pondered my own contributions and I began to weigh those meager efforts against the balance of my life's work. My recent conversion to environmental causes pales in comparison to my damaging lifestyle. Guilt is a terrible thing and perhaps I need to own, if not embrace my evil ways. I decided I would make a list - a brief confession if you will:
1) I was born. Almost immediately I was off to a bad start. My very existence was already contributing to the demise of the world. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if I had been hatched as a peregrine falcon or California condor, but as a human being my contribution to the Earth's bio-mass was sure to be fraught with blame.
2) I am a North American. This one is actually a bit of a relief for me. Like most of my worst character defects and failures - I can blame it on my parents, who brought me to this part of the world in the first place. Actually they may have more than a passing blame for confession number one as well. It is said that we North Americans share more than our proportion of responsibility for the ills of the planet. We contribute more greenhouse gases and suck up and pollute much more than our per capita allocation of air and water. The fact that I am also an Albertan probably puts me well beyond the pale.
3) I drive a car. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I got my driver's license and became the proud owner of my first automobile. Perhaps it wouldn't have been such a happy day if I realized what evil I was about to commit against the environment. My whole life has been built around the automobile. I'm a commuter and I drive 70,000 kilometers a year. I'm sure some folks might disagree, but this must be the most atrocious habit I have ever developed.
4) I have a job as a technician in the office products industry. The reams of paper I cause to be consumed every day are enough to deforest an immense section of boreal forest. Every machine I repair is likely to consume much more paper than a non-working one, which leaves me in a quandary - to fix or not to fix? I take pride in my work, so I suppose I can boast that my job clears great swaths of pine in order to slow the advance of the mountain pine beetle.
5) I own a cat. At the risk of offending the surly cat lover lobby, I included this one, because studies have shown that kitty isn’t the cute furry pet that we have come to love. They are killing machines. Perhaps we won’t get too up in arms about field mouse predation, but it has been shown that 24 percent of their kills are birds. Our love of felines is contributing to the decimation of native bird species. It’s funny how my cat never brings home invasive species like house sparrows or starlings. Apparently like me, she is very discerning.
6) I can't stop eating. Besides contributing to my considerable girth, this nasty habit probably does more to contribute to greenhouse gas, pollute our waterways and cause the clearance of land and the destruction of whole ecosystems. I used to enjoy a good meal, but now I can barely tolerate it as I struggle to choke down pounds of lovely Alberta beef.
I'm sure I could probably make a longer list of my sins, but my Twenty-first Century attention span doesn't seem to allow for much more (Facebook and Twitter beckon). Besides, thinking about all the ills I have committed takes me out of my "happy place". Being a liberal and an environmentally-conscious Albertan already brings plenty of angst to my life.