Flashing the plastic to repent for my sins against an ailing mother

By Charlie Shifflett ( China Daily ) Updated: 2007-07-26 15:32:26

Forgive me, Mother Earth, for I have sinned. Every morning, while brushing my teeth, I open the water tap approximately 30 percent of the way while massaging my gums and polishing my not-so-pearly white teeth. If my breath still stinks after the first brushing, I do it again. Meanwhile, the water is running right into the drain. I've tried to reform by turning off the water while I brush, but - shame on me - I usually forget.

It gets worse, Mother Earth. Instead of leaving my air conditioner running at the prescribed 26 C, I've dropped it to 24. This is in direct disobedience to local regulations, I know, but I just can't help myself.

Actually, I've been ignoring regulations ever since I was a kid. To keep the electricity bill down during the summers in Florida, my mom would always keep the house a little too warm for my liking. When she wasn't home, I'd adjust the thermostat to make the house a little cooler and - I know, shame on me - expel even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing the chances that some monster hurricane would one day strike my Florida home, plucking the driveway basketball hoop from its cement mooring like a daisy from a flower garden.

Actually, I could go on, but you know who I am, Mother Earth. You peek into my window in the morning when I stir. Your eyes - as bright as the sun - see through my dust-covered curtains. You hear the music playing too loudly, the TV jabbering when I'm not even watching. You see the lights on in every room.

That's why I come to you now - to bring you this offering. I've found a way to atone for my sins. Thanks to the booming carbon trade industry, companies like have emerged, allowing me to repay the debt I owe you by replenishing the earth with trees and wind-power.

I only need to pull out my credit card.

I've figured it'll cost me $50 a year to cover my driving; $30 to cover my living; $10 to cover my flying. That's less than $100 a year to erase my carbon footprint from the planet. I can't be sure the company will do what they promise with my money, but that's between them and you, Mother Earth. Who am I to judge?

I believe that in doing this I will finally have done my part to save this glorious planet - your planet. Actually, that's the brilliant part of the green industry: I can continue living just as I have in the past because my CO2 sins will have been washed away with the click of a mouse.

By donating a few dollars to plant trees in Africa or to buy wind-power in the US Midwest, I - along with other consumers and corporations - can do good while still maintaining our quality of life.

I'm sure you can understand how hard it is to unlock these chains of comfort and habit.

Mother Earth, I just hope you'll remember my carbon "offset" purchase the next time you whip up a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Please steer it away from my house in Tallahassee. I want to play basketball in my driveway when I get home.

(China Daily 07/26/2007 page20)

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