In his book _Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning_ George Monbiot makes the compelling case that if we are to stop catastrophic global warming, we must reduce world emissions to 2.7 tons per year by 2030. Right now, the world emits a bit over 7 billion tons. So that means a worldwide reduction of at least 60% (it is probably actually more, because the IPCC figures have risen since the publication of Monbiot's book). The thing is, however, you can't just institute across the board 60% cuts - and say, thus to a village in Chad that uses electricity to light their school, clinic and pump water for the communal well, "Oh, sorry, you have to give up the clinic and the well." The only just solution is to hold the largest emitters proportionately responsible. Which means in the US, a cut of our emissions of 93 or 94% (depending on who you ask).
Monbiot observes that we lack the political will to make this happen, and says "no one has ever rioted for austerity." By that he means that there's never been a worldwide political movement demanding "we want less." As Monbiot observes in his latest London Guardian article, the governments of rich nations have pretty much decided that environmental apocalypse is more politically expedient than actually doing what's necessary. The most radical plans proposed in the US represent only an 80% cut in emissions by 2050 - which is simply too little, too late. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2069395,00.html
All of which means one thing - unless we do something entirely unprecedented in our history, that is, demand that our governments take action to give us a world that consumes less and uses less power, our governments will let billions die for reasons of expedience.
But it is important to note that we do have power over our governments. We can make it so that isn't politically expedient to do that much harm. And one of the ways we can do that, is to stand up and represent a visible reproach to the notion that reducing our emissions that much is impossible, that Americans would never do this. As soon as some of us can stand up and say "I did it." "I did it." "My family did it." "We did it...and you can too." We can offer living proof to those who believe falsely that we must choose between "the American way of life" and "leaving the next generation a world worth living in."
Miranda, over at SimpleReduce (http://simplereduce.wordpress.com/) and I have decided that someone has to do it - and it might as well be us. Our goal is, over the next year (but continuing steadily over time...this isn't something short term) to reduce our emissions down to 7% of the average American's. Now obviously, this is one of those things that would be vastly easier with the help of social programs and new initiatives - but we're going to do it without those things, to prove that it is possible to live and live well without destroying the earth.
We're still working out the parameters, and would welcome advice and suggestions on how to set things up. At the moment we're talking about making 93% reductions in emissions in 7 areas - sometimes by simply not using a thing, other times by using renewables, or by a combination.
3. Heating fuel
4. Food energy
6. Consumer purchases
7. Garbage production
We're still figuring out the exact metrics for calculating the consequences of our lifestyle, but we invite others to join us, and to write a weekly update on your blog (or post one in the comments sections of one of ours). We'll link blogs together and talk about how the project has gone for all of us. And at the end of this, we can at least give the lie to the notion that "Americans would never do this."
I think this is going to be fun - optimizing your life so that you get the most out of the least inputs is one of the most fascinating projects I can imagine. Plus, the world needs a few more good riots, even quiet ones.