Guilt and Conscience


While walking along the shore towards the village I was thinking about all the thousands of miles we travel every year and how much energy and fuel that jet setting burns. The other nagging question is: who bears responsibility for reducing the carbon footprint? The companies that pumped the oil, the carmakers whose engines burn the fuel or the people who drive the cars? And is guilt about everything from what we eat to how we travel a good motivator for improving our lazy comfort habits. Are these rich man’s problems. Such were my quandaries when I sat down, waiting  for Camp who was unusually late.

I had the sneaking suspicion that now that he is a married man, his mobility was somewhat compromised. He finally did show up but he also proved my suspicions correct. ‘I can only stay for one quick pint because Muriel wants us to go for a walk after dinner.’

‘It’s light until 10 o’clock Camp, and it’s only just 5PM’, I said, pointing out the obvious. ‘You need to convince Muriel that these Thursday beers are essential to your mental health and cannot be tampered with,’ I said.

‘Easy for you to say, Clare is probably happy to have some time to herself.’

‘Low blow Camp, Clare supports my extra-curricular activities. It’s what keeps a relationship sane, to give each other the space each one of us needs.’

‘You’re talking to a newly wedded man, one who doesn’t know those finer details of enduring relationships yet. Right now it’s all about making a good first impression as a responsible husband.

‘Camp, Muriel knows who she married. You’re the same guy today as you were last week, or am I wrong.’

Camp kept checking his watch and my arguments were not persuading him. Where did the independent rebel go, the one who always found time to talk and relax, the have a brew or two?’

‘Ok, just indulge me here for a minute,’ I said. ‘I’ve been worried about the massive carbon footprint I’m leaving with all our travelling and flying around.’

‘What are you gonna do instead?’ Camp said, ‘sit home all winter like me and make a wood fire every day in your stove, drive your fuel guzzling truck around every day for shopping, not to mention the cooking on the electric range, the coffee machine, the TV and the cooling of the beers in the fridge and what about that hot tub of yours. I bet that’s burning a few miles of air travel each and every day.’

‘You got a point there but I still eat and drink wherever I go and I also buy those carbon trade credits from ‘Myclimate’ to offset my frivolous behaviour.’

‘Those are mostly feel good shenanigans to offset a guilty conscience. To plant trees in Mozambique or Ecuador or install solar cells in Bangladesh as a carbon trade measure also improves peoples economic standards in those places so they can now afford a TV and a fridge which is good for them but worse for the environment. Those countries also use your well meaning and self-serving offsets in order to reduce their own footprint, in fact counting them double and nullifying the whole scheme.  Everyone should take a long, hard look in the mirror as ask themselves what they need to do to change their habits in order to reduce their demands for fossil fuels, the culprit of this blame game in all of this. Well, I’d better be off,’ Camp said, anxiously checking his watch.

‘You’re not leaving after this sermon, are you, I feel like I’ve just been bashed over the head. I need something more uplifting for my second pint,’ I pleaded, ‘like : ‘Make America White Again,  Trump’s latest racist stunt.’

Camp sat back down  but ignored the refills Vicky brought around. ‘Here is a stat I came across today on just this subject: 90 million or about 28 percent of the US population are immigrants and their US born children, according to a 2018 Current Population Survey. Of those, 36 million are Mexican Americans or about 63 percent of all Latinos in the US. ‘

‘Wow, what would happen if they all get up and leave?’

‘The whole system would collapse. On that positive note I really got to go.’

‘I guess I’ll have to drink both refills now,’ I said to Vicky.

‘It will pass,’ she assured me. ‘He’ll be back to his old self in a couple of weeks.’ This pearl of wisdom was coming from a millennial.

‘Let’s hope so. Meanwhile put these two beers on his tab. And by the way I wont be here next week because I’m launching my revised restaurant book FOLLY BISTRO at the Joe Fortes Library in Vancouver.’

‘I wish I could be there, I’m sure it will be funny,’ Vicky said.

‘You bet, in retrospect it’s all just hilarious. I make sure you get a copy.

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