Carbon Diet? Time to get in shape.

As an American I am fat! I run into this a lot in Sweden, where I suddenly appear obese among the svelte Swedes. Someone recently gave me a Wii Fitness, and in the setup stage when the Japanese game console recorded my answers to various questions and weighed me, it declared that I am obese. But at Walmart and at the Chinese Buffet I look almost skinny next to my fellow shopper/eaters. Fully clothed, I appear pleasantly unfit perhaps, but not fat.

Ugh, there is so much stigma with weight. I feel such a temptation to lose weight simply to look thiner even at the expense of my health. The problem is that the scale shifts depending on geographical location. No doubt I need to drop some pounds, build some muscle, and do more cardio. This is good for my health–my doctor says so as does my husband. So I’m cutting back and exercising more.

But what about my carbon weight? Based on the fossil fuels I consume through travel, heating, electricity usages as well as where I get my food, how am I doing? Well, as an American I am automatically obese when it comes to carbon. We use more per capita than any other country. We built this city, not on rock and roll, but on fossil fuels, and the whole thing–transportation, farming, cooking, playing-falls apart without these fossil fuels.

So I trim some here and there. My husband and I changed our electricity source to 100% renewables (which at the moment costs 1/3 more than coal.) We lower the thermostat to 58 degrees F. We eat mostly vegan at home. We grow about 20% of our own food and hope to do more. I have grounded myself from flying and instead pursue alternative travel–bus, train, etc.

To my neighbors and among many of my family and friends, I am beginning to look like a climate monk of sorts with such drastic measures. But really I am just adjusting to what I see as normal consumption patterns for healthy living. I’m cutting out some carbon fat, but still my lifestyle is fossil fuel rich.

Why am I doing this? Guilt? Environmental Self-Righteousness? Sadism? Attention? Perhaps a little of all of these. I don’t do it quietly, speaking, tweeting, and blogging about it, so I see my Carbon Diet as a form of performance art. But I guess I do so because I want to model that it can be done, and that doing so may even make life richer. I’m liking this back to basics, less wasteful living.

I also do it because I am a futurist. These adjustments I make now are the very ones that most people will need to make over the next 10 years, particularly if fossil fuels get taxed resulting in soaring energy prices. Guilt may not get many of us to change our consumption patterns, but the expense will, and will generate vibrant markets for alternatives.

Hard times are ahead. Think about World War II and the many sacrifices our grandparents made, more so in Europe than in the US. The rationing, the Victory Gardens, the many ways people had to look out for each other. I see our future looking like this with the pains and the joys that come with a global crisis. So it is time to get in shape. There is a marathon ahead.


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