I was recently in a supermarket with a girlfriend and she glanced over at a harassed family of four with a shopping cart teeming with meat and other carbon intensive food items, and sneered at their steak, hotdog and chicken wing filled shopping cart. Now she is a self-professed foodie that will only eat an organic local vegan diet and as she clutched her little wire basket in one hand with a few organic vegetables, a package of tofu and some bulk dried beans, I could see her calculating the greenhouse gases generated by the meat and tabulating the cruelty from the factory farming methods that had produced said meat.

Although I am not convinced that sneering and shaming is the best method to help people change their eating habits, I could certainly relate to her dismay about the over-meat-eating family’s seeming indifference to how much planetary damage was contained in their small shopping cart.

Disposable cups activate the ire of another tree-loving friend. She once confessed to me over a cup of herbal tea in a stainless steel reusable mug, that she had to restrain herself from ripping disposable cups right out of people’s hands as there is no reason, no rationale reason, to keep using disposable anything.

Engine idling incenses another eco-friend. A tiny, pretty gal, she will regularly approach engine idlers, even worker guys in their enormous vehicles, and ask them to turn their engines off when the vehicle is stationary.

Engine idling, like disposable cups and eating meat three times a day, just seems so completely unnecessary and, frankly, indicative of how far we still have to go in rectifying our patterns of overconsumption and pointless waste.

Now, before you think my friends walk around in an environmental rage all the time, it is important to realize that our eco-sentiments are indicative of a changing society. People are starting to see more and more the direct link between individual actions and choices and the resulting damage to the planet.

Remember when Hummers and SUVS used to be considered powerful status symbols and even, for a time, epitomizing a love for the outdoors? Now they are the subjects of constant bashing for their excessive fuel consumption.

There are “What Would Jesus Drive Campaigns?” (hint – it is not a Hummer…) and “I Humped Your Hummer Campaigns” (best go to YouTube and check this out for yourself) and I have, on a few occasions, seen earnest environmentalists explaining fuel consumption and the link to climate change to bewildered Hummer drivers.

Hummers and SUVs went from hip to hideous in an incredibly short amount of time.

The plastic water bottle is also on the same downward spiraling PR trajectory. Bottled water went from symbolizing purity, fun and frivolity, with Friends’ most famous celebrity huckster Jennifer Aniston pushing bottled water on starstruck Americans, to being something towns, municipalities and governments around the globe are shunning and banning. We Want Tap, Ban The Bottle, Students Against Bottled Water, to name just a select few, are all working to get North Americans off the wasteful BPA dipped water bottle teat.

Sure, plastic water bottles, SUVS and meat are all getting a very bad rap in the growing movement to address climate change, but lately, with more information and studies being released on the effects of population on climate change, I wonder how the most holy of holy, the most sacred of sacred, will be viewed in the future – the pregnant woman.

Currently the pregnant woman embodies an exalted place in almost all cultures around the world. She is considered a symbol of purity, growth, blessing, creation and joy. Strangers flock to her, they want to touch her tummy, share birthing and mothering tips, talk gender, and find someway, anyway, to share in the radiant glow of motherhood.

Pregnant women luxuriate in the attention like a cat in the sun; they lap up the sheer specialness of being a vessel of creation.

But is all this about to change? Are pregnant women the new disposable cup or plastic water bottle? Are they also symbols of indifference, selfishness or greed?

A recently released study by statisticians at Oregon State University found that in the United States the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more significant than some of the other environmental practices people might employ during their lives – things like switching to an electric car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.

The report, Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals, found that the potential carbon footprints of children vary dramatically from country to country. The average long-term carbon impact of a child born in the U. S. – along with all of its descendants – is more than 160 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh.

Explained as the exponential population growth, when someone in North America produces a child, and that child potentially produces more descendants in the future – the effect on the environment can be many times the impact produced by the original parent during their lifetime.

The study also found that under current living conditions in the USA each child ultimately will add about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent – about 5.7 times (1,657mt) the lifetime emissions for which, on average, a person is responsible.

The world population is currently at 6.799 billion (as of August 2009) and the planet cannot support and maintain this population at current disproportionate standards of living. Global population is expected to hit 7 billion by 2011 according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

“Even with declining fertility rates in many countries, world population is still growing at a rapid rate,” said Bill Butz, PRB's president. "The increase from 6 billion to 7 billion is likely to take 12 years, as did the increase from 5 billion to 6 billion. Both events are unprecedented in world history."

So, with world population growing at an unprecedented rate, I can’t help but ask myself are North American pregnant women the new Hummers? Are they emblematic of the same self-centeredness that seems prevalent in any individual who continues to maintain their lifestyle, beliefs, wants and desires, irregardless of the cost to the planet?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to judge a pregnant woman. But then I never could have imagined in my wildest eco-dreams that I would see people sneer at a shopping cart full of food or become enraged at the sight of a disposable cup.

Valerie Williams is the editor of GreenMuze. com. She lives on Salt Spring Island, Canada.

Via:www.greenmuze. соm

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