Inappropriate Incentives

Stunning spring day on Mt Rosa. Our property is near the bottom of the photo, the first planted area right of the dense green field and forward of the big dark green wind break.

We all want to do the right thing, right? For example, pretty much all my life I can remember, I have preferred to cycle rather than drive whenever possible. I hypothesise this desire became embedded in my brain during the 1970s oil crisis, when lack and expense of fuel combined with my innate desire for freedom (although it is pretty hard to decipher my thought patterns that far in reverse). In the 1970s I got the impression that we would run out of oil before 2000; in fact I thought it was quite unlikely I would get to drive a car. I also felt this was rather unfair! Anyhow, I ended up with a part of my brain that actively does not want to drive. This desire, or non-desire, transmuted into my renting and then buying houses from which I could walk or cycle-commute to work, until self-employment took away my need to commute.

However, buying an electric car, combined with singing lessons, have damaged my dislike of driving. This is a time when, more than at any point in my life, I should be aware of my impact on the planet. I have the finances and flexibility to minimise my impact but instead, for the first time I remember, I don’t mind driving nearly so much. The start of the problem was singing lessons or, to be more accurate, singing practice.

I started singing lessons a year ago on the basis that, if you are wanting to perform the songs you have written, it is preferable to be able to sing them well. I am really enjoying the lessons and want to practice to get the most from them. Practice takes 20-30 minutes. So where do I fit that into my day? Particularly given that singing practice is not good for other people to listen to; when Chris is in the house I don’t really want to practice.

I discovered the obvious answer was singing practice while driving. To practice well actually requires stopping oneself actively thinking about how one is singing – the best thing is to do something else at the same time (my singing teacher gets me to use my arms as if I am swimming which makes it even less likely I want to practice near other people). So driving somewhere on my own offers perfect solo time in which to practice.

Then, bring on the Kia EV6, which not only uses electricity so does not directly emit carbon gases, but is very pleasant to drive (and I like its colour). I no longer feel guilty about using oil, I need time to practice singing and, bingo, I am happy to drive.

The EV with recycling bins attached. How much more ‘green’ can one get (plenty…see below). Shout out here for the Carac Bin Mate – a present from Franco the caravan dweller on our property. This nifty little device attaches on the tow bar and allows you to tow two bins the 500m horizontal and 50m vertical down to the road from where the bins are collected. I’ve tried on a bike and it is challenging.

Added bonus, we can charge the car from our newly added solar panels, while simultaneously running the house, charging our house battery for night time power, and returning power to the grid. We are net power generators, go us, right?

At 11am we had already charged the house battery and are were sending 5kW of power to the grid while supplying the house.

But this is not right. I am still using resource and in no way following any degrowth concepts. If I drive more I am using more resource than I was before. Car manufacturing uses resource and creates greenhouse gases. Manufacture of solar panels and batteries damages and depletes the planet. In the course of trying to do the right thing, I am doing bad things, all because I have the financial resources which allow me to. I need to face the fact that I am in the richest 10% of planet inhabitants who produce 50% of the carbon gas emissions. I could even be in the richest 1% who are responsible for 15% of emissions and most likely a similarly high proportion of overall environmental damage.

Worse, I have no solution to offer. I have never owned a TV because, if I did, I would feel drawn to watch it just like the rest of the world. Given the option of consumption, I consume, just like the rest of the world. I try to consume in a way that might make me feel better about my consumption but, considered objectively, I’m no different.

That’s the thing, isn’t it. Overall, none of us are any different from the rest of us.

Published by janecshearer

I'm a self-employed life enthusiast living in Gibbston, New Zealand

2 thoughts on “Inappropriate Incentives

  1. There must be some kind of mitigation linked to the car towing the recycling bin? Or perhaps that works better if you hitch it to your bicycle.

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