I’m Paul Berkman and I live in Brisbane, Australia. I am a straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied, post-graduate educated, middle-class, middle-aged man. This isn’t a brag, it’s just a bunch of facts about me. I mention them here to demonstrate one thing: I am abundantly privileged.
Over the last couple hundred years, privilege has gone hand-in-hand with a lot of clever technologies1The disparity between the rich and everyone else is larger than ever in the United States and increasing in much of Europe. Why? by David Rotman October 2014, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/531726/technology-and-inequality/amp/ accessed 24 October 2019. These have helped the world in a lot of ways. But as it stands, privilege in the industrial world has also led to immense damage to the planet2The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, by IPCC 24 September 2019,https://report.ipcc.ch/srocc/pdf/SROCC_SPM_Approved.pdf accessed 24 October 2019. Major impacts from climate change on life as we know it cannot now be avoided3Global Warming of 1.5 ºC by IPCC 2018, https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ accessed 24 October 2019. For the sake of future generations, our goal now has to be to prevent further catastrophe. We must both stop and wind back the causes of the damage that we and our forebears have created.
This is my context.
Here in Australia, I’ve watched with growing concern and frustration as climate politics have descended into an immature farce. The last decade in Australian politics has been dominated by old, straight, white men. This is despite the amazing leadership rarely credited to Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Australia now has a Prime Minister who:
- downplays the continued increase in Australian carbon emissions over the course of his party’s government4Scott Morrison’s climate change speech criticised as ‘colossal bulls**t’ by Charis Chang 28 September 2019, https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/pm-says-critics-are-ignoring-our-achievement-on-climate-change/news-story/b0496217bb1540d3811a8b4ca1fc6995 accessed 24 October 2019
- stands as the only world leader claiming carry-over carbon credits from before the Paris agreement5Australia is the only country using carryover climate credits, officials admit by Graham Readfearn and Adam Morton 22 October 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/22/australia-is-the-only-country-using-carryover-climate-credits-officials-admit accessed 24 October 2019; and
- is yet to articulate any kind of robust climate policy to address our biggest emitters6ScoMo’s Thrilling New Climate Change Policy Is Literally The Same As Abbott’s by James Hennessy 25 February 2019, https://www.pedestrian.tv/news/scott-morrison-climate-change/ accessed 24 October 20197Industry calls for Morrison to go further on climate policy by Nicole Hasham 25 February 2019 https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/industry-calls-for-morrison-to-go-further-on-climate-policy-20190225-p51026.html accessed 24 October 2019
Carbon neutral is not enough.
So why am I writing? I have 2 pre-teen kids, and my wife and I recently watched the movie 2040 with them82040: Join the Regeneration, https://whatsyour2040.com/ accessed 24 October 2019. What really struck me was the idea that even if the world completely stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, we would still fry9Importance of the pre-industrial baseline for likelihood of exceeding Paris goals by AP Schurer et al. 24 July 2017, https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate3345 accessed 24 October 2019.
This got me thinking, I’ve done some things to reduce my carbon footprint in recent years. For example we installed solar panels, we chose a highly fuel efficient car, and we opted for an electricity supplier investing heavily in renewables. But what would it take for me to completely remove my carbon footprint? How can I move from being a carbon polluter to a carbon catcher? Can I turn my own actions to make my life “climate positive“10Climate Positive Development Program by Urban Planning and Development Initiative https://www.c40.org/other/climate-positive-development-program accessed 24 October 2019?
That is the focus of this blog. I’m going to try to perform on myself a carbon ixnectomy (pronounced ik’nek’tō-mē). I’ve coined this term from the greek word “ixnos” (ίχνος, meaning footprint or trace) and “-ectomy” (-εκτομή, meaning excision or removal). Together, carbon ixnectomy means “the process of removing one’s carbon footprint from the planet” or “becoming climate positive“. This is my personal aim.
Firstly, despite my enormous privilege, I am not an accountant, climate scientist, or home improvement specialist. I work in software development and machine learning. My background is in data science and crop genetics. I will be tackling this as a non-expert trying to make the most my available resources.
Secondly, as a recovering academic and scientist, attribution and reproducibility matter a lot to me. I will attempt to apply the same rigour I do as a scientist. This is particular to how I will read the literature and apply best practice in the different disciplines needed for this work.
Finally, I want to look at how any solutions might be possible not just the privileged like me. I hope to identify solutions that can be used as broadly as possible.
I plan to work through the various areas of my life that contribute to carbon pollution. To start with, I believe these will be:
- Transport: both private and public;
- Travel: to look at things like flights and accommodation away from home
- Entertainment: to look at how leisure activities pollute
- Services & Subscriptions: to see how information and other services pollute
- Product Consumption: because the things we buy have a footprint
I welcome you to follow along or join in with me in the quest! I will track progress on the Footprint Status page, it should update regularly.
Let’s get cracking!