I Offset, Therefore I’m not

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the concept of carbon offsetting. In case you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s basically a system that allows businesses and individuals to contribute financially to environmental projects such as forestation and renewable energy initiatives to compensate for things they’ve done that are considered detrimental to the planet. Essentially you do a bad thing, then help out with a good thing and the bad thing is cancelled out, hence the term offsetting. People seem to be all over this idea, treating it like the greatest thing since sliced bread. By the way, what was sliced bread the greatest thing since? Unsliced bread? Sliced meat? Fire? An answer would be nice.

But back to the matter at hand, I don’t understand how this offset credit deal is supposed to work. Where else in life does this logic apply? If you kill a guy but save somebody else’s life on the way to your murder trial, are you free to go? No, you’re not. If you rape somebody but also volunteer at a centre for abused women, does the rape not count? Yes, it does. So how is it then that spewing hundreds of tonnes of chemicals into the air on a daily basis can be undone by forking over a few bucks to a guy with a truck full of seedlings and windmills? That’s right, it can’t.

I wish people would do a little bit of critical thinking before buying into such a fundamentally flawed idea, but I suppose that would be a lot more difficult than throwing money at a problem to create the illusion of doing something while not having to put effort into making real and lasting changes.

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