Monday, 7 December 2009

Admire my Carbon Boots

I write this on the eve of the Copenhagen climate conference. Carbon footprints are all the rage. Many people now understand the case for low-energy light-bulbs and choose to buy less thirsty cars. People want to be seen to be reducing the size of their carbon footprint. For big business in Europe it has become a requirement. Carbon footprints are now important for facilities managers and are coming onto the radar screens of financial directors and chief executives. For many, this is in response to the carbon reduction legislation, changes in car tax and the threat of higher energy costs in the future.

There are also businesses and individual people that want to go further. They want to reduce their carbon emissions because they believe that it is the right thing to do. It is becoming ‘cool’ to show off smaller carbon boots, even if they are a more expensive.

For some other people, the fashion remains to arrive in the largest, butchest SUV on the market. These cost more than other cars of course, but that may be part of the attraction, to display the ability to pay. To these people, big carbon boots are still the fashion accessory of choice.

It is not just the rich who like to show off. In a street on the less affluent side of my town there is a competition running. One house has Christmas lights that include Father Christmas and his reindeers in full neon glory. There are lights around every part of the house where a cable could be strung. The owner must be very proud of his (or her) creation and not too worried by the numbers ticking rapidly on the electricity meter. This house is not the ‘winner’. Further along the street another house has surpassed even this, with a similar Christmas light display but also the ground of the front yard is covered in a carpet of lights.

The fashion needs to shift to smaller carbon boots so that those who currently take pride in big clodhopping carbon boots are made to feel old fashioned and out-of-date. This fashion shift could be far more powerful than legislation. Over time, smoking has made the transition from ‘cool’ to ‘offensive’. Big carbon footprints will also go out of fashion in a similar way. Big SUVs and conspicuous energy consumption will be seen as naff. This shift in society will come whether there is an agreement at Copenhagen or not.

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