Peter Kalmus

 

Once I turned onto Peter Kalmus’ street, it was easy to spot his home. With waist-high arugu­la and white sage instead of a sub­ur­ban lawn, some would call his front yard an over­grown mess. How­ev­er, any­one try­ing to cut his car­bon emis­sions to one ten­th, eat a local veg­e­tar­i­an diet, and pro­mote a healthy ecosys­tem would call the yard a great suc­cess.

Kalmus is an Earth sci­en­tist at the Jet Propul­sion Laboratory/Caltech, in Pasade­na, Cal­i­for­nia, who decid­ed a few years ago to try to cut his green­house gas emis­sions dra­mat­i­cal­ly. By ceas­ing to fly, cycling as much as pos­si­ble, and chang­ing his diet (among oth­er things) he’s now respon­si­ble for 2 tons of emis­sions each year; the Amer­i­can aver­age is about 20 tons1 each year.

I had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing Kalmus in his home in Altade­na, a sub­urb of LA at the base of the San Gabriel Moun­tains, to talk about his lifestyle, his work, and the sur­pris­ing joys of using less ener­gy. We set­tled into con­ver­sa­tion under his giant avo­cado tree (yes, I got to keep a few) after we made some hand-cranked ground cof­fee (yes, I too thought it was heavy-hand­ed but it was also deli­cious).

The inter­view below has been con­densed.

If you could design a course for first-year uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents that had to deal with man­made cli­mate change, what would it look like?

I would call it “The Anthro­pocene, or Our Eco­log­i­cal Predica­ment” —what does it mean to be a human right now? I am real­ly inter­est­ed in what I can do as one per­son, and there are almost 7.5 bil­lion peo­ple right now. So what can one per­son do given this huge glob­al predica­ment? It seems we don’t have the pow­er to do any­thing about it as an indi­vid­u­al. So how can we respond to that in a way that’s both effec­tive and allows us to be as hap­py as we can be given all this depress­ing stuff.

And your class­es?

Class One: What we know and what we don’t know

How hot will it be in 2050 and 2150? What are the cer­tain­ties for those, because those are pre­dic­tions? How long will the CO2 stay in the atmos­phere? When will it come out? And then: when will bio­di­ver­si­ty recov­er, because we are in the six­th mass extinc­tion right now and a major dri­ver of that is glob­al warm­ing?

Class Two: The sci­ence behind med­i­ta­tion and how med­i­ta­tion affects the brain

Not actu­al­ly giv­ing stu­dents direc­tions to med­i­tate, but let­ting them know how it works. I’ve been med­i­tat­ing for a very long time, and it’s total­ly non-reli­gious. So any­one can prac­tice. That’s one of the things I real­ly like about it. In the West, we tend to look out so much—we’re look­ing at our gad­gets, we’re email­ing peo­ple, we’re watch­ing TV—it’s all this exter­nal activ­i­ty. It seems that we are ter­ri­fied to stop and be still. So may­be after the third class, we would take some time to focus on the breath. And stu­dents would see that it’s real­ly hard to do after 5 or 10 sec­onds, the brain starts to wan­der away…so it sounds so easy but it’s so hard. And for some peo­ple I think it can be a ter­ri­fy­ing thing. I think it’s a real­ly impor­tant respon­se to this predica­ment that we are in.

Class Three: Com­post­ing

Some­thing that is impor­tant to me is composting—I call it aggres­sive com­post­ing or com­post­ing every­thing. Every scrap of organ­ic waste I gen­er­ate. This could be a chal­leng­ing one for a lot of the stu­dents. When I say every­thing, I mean every­thing.2

So the first three class­es deal with sci­ence, our inner lives, and con­crete prac­ti­cal action: three impor­tant kinds of truth. We need all three right now.

Class Four: TV screens and the phys­i­ol­o­gy of addic­tion

So I’d have to do some research, but I think iPhones are phys­i­cal­ly addict­ing. In this coun­try and oth­er coun­tries it’s out­stand­ing how much time peo­ple spend in front of a screen3, and what does that do to our abil­i­ty to inter­act with each oth­er and have con­ver­sa­tions with one anoth­er? What does hav­ing this con­stant bar­rage of adver­tise­ment do to our world­view? Does it make us more depen­dent on cor­po­ra­tions? Does it blind us to oth­er ways we can see this world? There’s no glob­al warm­ing in the­se ads. There’s no seri­ous eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty in the­se ads. Peo­ple are smil­ing and they just have this one lit­tle prob­lem that gets solved by some pro­duct, and then their lives are per­fect. It’s inter­est­ing to think about that ad cul­ture.

Class Five: Tech­no-opti­mism and the myth of pro­gress

We think sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy can solve any prob­lem that comes our way. I think with glob­al warm­ing and the psy­cho­log­i­cal predica­ment, it’s pos­si­ble that the major­i­ty of peo­ple think that we’re gonna solve this with tech­nol­o­gy. That we are going to throw more tech­nol­o­gy at the­se prob­lems and solve it that way. There’s a sense that this tech­no-opti­mism allows peo­ple to not have to change them­selves. To rescind their respon­si­bil­i­ty from this. “They” will save us. Who are the­se “they”?

Class Six: Glob­al warm­ing pol­i­cy

I’d def­i­nite­ly want to exam­ine a rev­enue-neu­tral car­bon fee that I think is prob­a­bly the best pol­i­cy step we can make as a nation and con­sor­tium of nations. Any time coal comes out of the ground, oil, or fos­sil fuel comes into port—there’d be a tax on that depend­ing on how much CO2 or methane is pro­duced from pro­cess­ing and burn­ing it. This fee would increase over time. So any pro­duct that need­ed fos­sil fuel to get made, cer­tain­ly gaso­line, nat­u­ral gas, plas­tic, even food prod­ucts that are fos­sil fuel intensive—all of the­se would get more expen­sive, over time. So there’d be a mar­ket based incen­tive both for cor­po­ra­tions and indi­vid­u­als to find alter­na­tives.

Which is dif­fer­ent from a car­bon tax?

Yes, a tax means that the gov­ern­ment keeps the mon­ey, and a fee means the mon­ey goes back to the peo­ple. So house­holds would get mon­ey back each year. And if you’re doing every­thing you can [to avoid using fos­sil fuels] you are sav­ing mon­ey, and that’s mon­ey that can be spent.

Class Sev­en: How we are trapped by the need for eco­nom­ic growth

Politi­cians are all about growth. And the way that our sys­tem is set up if we don’t have that four per­cent growth, things get real­ly bleak. Econ­o­mists will say that we can keep grow­ing forever, and they have the­o­ries of how we can decou­ple growth from fos­sil fuels. I have yet to be con­vinced of that. It just seems our whole sys­tem is based on fos­sil fuels.

That implies we need to shrink to some kind of steady state econ­o­my. I think it would have to depend on oth­er things to pull it off. We’d have to fig­ure out how to stop grow­ing our pop­u­la­tion. The sec­ond thing we’d have to do is switch from a prof­it-based sys­tem to a ben­e­fit-based sys­tem. For a lot of humans, what gives their lives mean­ing is to amass as much wealth as pos­si­ble, hoard­ing as much as pos­si­ble, and mak­ing the­se bank accounts that can be passed on to chil­dren. The dif­fer­ence between the rich­est few peo­ple and the aver­age per­son is such a wide gulf. It’s just not clear what one indi­vid­u­al needs ten bil­lion dol­lars for.

When the mon­ey grows, the ego grows with it; peo­ple become slaves to the mon­ey they hoard, and it dis­con­nects you from oth­er peo­ple. There’s a seg­men­ta­tion of soci­ety, and this ties into med­i­ta­tion too because there’s a cer­tain fun­da­men­tal form of suf­fer­ing that we don’t talk about—wanting. If you want some­thing it implies that you aren’t hap­py with what you have in that moment, that some­how you feel incom­plete.

Class Eight: How to live with one ten­th of the fos­sil fuel

Four or five years ago, I real­ized I had been wor­ried about glob­al warm­ing for a very long time but I hadn’t changed any­thing about myself. I’d be run­ning around say­ing “We’ve got to do some­thing about this,” and “Why isn’t any­one doing any­thing about this?” and real­ized that I hadn’t done any­thing myself. So I sat down and thought—I dri­ve, I eat foods, I fly on air­planes, I use nat­u­ral gas and elec­tric­i­ty, and so forth…how much green­house emis­sions are emit­ted each year I do those things?

It took some research but I fig­ured it out and I basi­cal­ly made a pie chart. 75% of my emis­sions in 2010 were for fly­ing. At that time I was still doing astro­physics and I was a post-doc. You’re try­ing to become a pro­fes­sor so you fly to give talks at con­fer­ences and var­i­ous meet­ings, and so I start­ed to real­ize, whoa, 75% of my emis­sions, and I’ve got the­se lit­tle kids. They’re going to say, when they’re grown up and say glob­al warm­ing is real­ly bad and we didn’t mitigate—it’s real­ly hot every­where, the weath­er is crazy, there are mass extinc­tions, agri­cul­ture is strained, there’s sea lev­el rise and migra­tion away from coastal cities, and all of this bad stuff we hear about—what if that hap­pened and its 2050?—and my kids say “Dad, it’s bad, why didn’t you do any­thing?” And that’s when I start­ed to think of glob­al warm­ing as more of a moral issue.

We know enough to say that burn­ing fos­sil fuels caus­es harm. On a time scale of humans, it’s essen­tial­ly per­ma­nent harm. It harms humans, it harms peo­ple who haven’t been born yet, it harms peo­ple liv­ing on the oth­er side of the world, peo­ple liv­ing in Kenya. No one can escape it. And it hurts non­hu­mans as well. So I can’t avoid the impli­ca­tion that we have a moral rea­son to not burn this stuff any­more. We have to stop burn­ing it.

I start­ed bik­ing more. Bik­ing was the first thing I start­ed doing. It was an eye open­ing expe­ri­ence for me. I felt 20 years younger and alive. It was fun. I start­ed grow­ing some food—I think it’s just a mir­a­cle that food grows on trees.

The point I’m try­ing to make is that I start­ed doing all the­se things to move away from fos­sil fuels and lo and behold I liked the­se changes and they made me hap­pier. So I kept doing them. And I saved mon­ey, too. I start­ed exper­i­ment­ing with veg­an­ism and com­post­ing, and now I emit less than one ten­th of what I emit­ted in 2010. It’s actu­al­ly pret­ty easy to reduce down to about a ton or two per year, but given how our soci­ety is set up, it gets hard­er to go past that.

Chickens in the yard at the Kalmus residence in Altadena, CA.

Chick­ens in the yard at the Kalmus res­i­dence in Altade­na, CA.

There’s so much green­house gas going in the air so that reduc­ing my emis­sions from 20 tons per year to near­ly zero isn’t enough to have any impact. Which you could think of as real­ly depress­ing. But there are a few rea­sons why I think it’s real­ly good. I just like it better—but the oth­er real­ly big rea­son it’s worth it to me to make the­se changes is because it starts to tell a new sto­ry. It tells peo­ple that it’s pos­si­ble to live with a lot less fos­sil fuels and it’s not bleak. Peo­ple assume you have to make all the­se sac­ri­fices, but that’s not quite right. You have to change, and you gain things. 

The third thing is there’s some­thing real­ly impor­tant in this life about align­ing our actions with our core prin­ci­ples. I think that mis­align­ment leads to unhap­pi­ness. It just eats away at the back of your mind that you’re doing stuff that goes again­st the grain of your beliefs. And if you change your own actions it doesn’t mag­i­cal­ly make every­thing around you bet­ter, but it’s just nicer to fix that cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance.

I don’t want any­one to feel guilty. There’s way too much guilt in envi­ron­men­tal­ism right now, and I don’t think it’s help­ing us make change. When some­one is feel­ing guilty, there’s this unpleas­ant sen­sa­tion. So they just want this unpleas­ant sen­sa­tion to go away. They aren’t real­ly look­ing to live in a sus­tain­able way, they’re just look­ing to move away from feel­ing guilty. So in the 90s it was all about recy­cling. Recy­cling was the thing you could do to not feel guilty. Then you could get in the­se planes and emit all the­se fos­sil fuels and life was good because you were doing that tal­is­man­ic thing. Guilt leads to super­fi­cial changes and pre­vents deep­er aware­ness.

Class Nine: The short­com­ings of main­stream envi­ron­men­tal­ism

What does the term “green” mean? No one has actu­al­ly sat down to define that, and cor­po­ra­tions have co-opt­ed it. So much of main­stream envi­ron­men­tal­ism is about guilt; it’s about fear.

What we need is a new environmentalism…even the word envi­ron­men­tal­ism implies a dual­i­ty between the human world and the nat­u­ral world, so there’s this dual­i­ty between eco­nom­ics and jobs which always comes up every time envi­ron­men­tal­ism comes up. I’m look­ing for some­thing new which is more about: how can human­i­ty live in a way that’s aligned with the bios­phere?

Class Ten: Expo­nen­tial growth

The human brain isn’t very good at under­stand­ing the expo­nen­tial func­tion. Glob­al warm­ing feels like it’s accel­er­at­ing to me—and may­be that’s just our aware­ness. But there’s been this expo­nen­tial growth in our emis­sions and expo­nen­tial growth, the famous hock­ey stick in the air, as we recent­ly reached 400 parts per mil­lion, so that was grow­ing expo­nen­tial­ly until recent­ly. Each day we are mak­ing more humans than we’ve ever made in the past. I’d like to explore the­se trends in resource usages and trends in glob­al warming—are they actu­al­ly expo­nen­tial? What does that mean math­e­mat­i­cal­ly? What does that mean in terms of dou­bling? Are there already too many humans on the plan­et?

Class Eleven: Humans and non­hu­mans

I think there’s a trend in the human­i­ties that part of the predica­ment is speciesism: we put humans above all oth­er types of species. We see our­selves as spe­cial and we see it as our duty to con­quer every­one. Should ani­mals have legal rights? There’s a lot more sci­ence being done that address­es this ques­tion. I think sci­en­tists are start­ing to rec­og­nize that ani­mals have emo­tions that are quite sim­i­lar to our own. They have friends, they can expe­ri­ence love for their off­spring, they can expe­ri­ence love for their mates. I think for a long time doing this kind of sci­ence was kind of taboo, but I think it’s chang­ing. [Carl Safina’s book “What Ani­mals Think and Feel” explores this ques­tion — Ed]

We can also talk about some things that have been beat­en to death, like fac­to­ry farms. I think a lot of peo­ple buy meat in shrink wrap pack­ages and they aren’t real­ly aware it came from a liv­ing being. There’s also a dis­turbing trend in diseases—viruses and bac­te­ri­as. When you keep ani­mals in bad con­di­tions, virus­es can evolve rapid­ly and we’re see­ing new virus­es.

Class Twelve: Lim­its to acad­e­mia

There are things you can’t teach in a class­room. Gar­den­ing, rais­ing chick­ens. May­be liv­ing with­out fos­sil fuels. I like liv­ing with one-ten­th the fos­sil fuels, but until peo­ple actu­al­ly go out and try it, I don’t think they’ll believe me. So there’s real­ly a lim­it to how knowl­edge can be trans­ferred. 

And glob­al warm­ing is by it’s nature extreme­ly trans-dis­ci­pli­nary. It doesn’t fit neat­ly into any one of our cur­rent aca­d­e­mic dis­ci­plines.

Class Thir­teen: Eco­nom­ics of cor­po­ra­toc­ra­cy

Mon­ey in pol­i­tics par­a­lyzes gov­ern­ment and blocks action on issues like glob­al warm­ing. And the for-prof­it world­view doesn’t real­ly work in a future steady-state econ­o­my. We need to get mon­ey out of pol­i­tics. 

Class Four­teen: Envi­sion­ing a tru­ly sus­tain­able human­i­ty

A sus­tain­able human­i­ty is a human­i­ty that is hap­py liv­ing in the moment, doesn’t want a lot of things it doesn’t have, doesn’t see shop­ping as a way of hap­pi­ness; may­be it’s a utopi­an future where there’s no war any­more, and peo­ple place oth­ers’ needs before their own.

You cite own­ing land in Altade­na as one of the rea­sons you were able to ful­ly con­nect with the idea of “be-cycling,” a deep­er approach to sus­tain­able liv­ing. As most of the coun­try (and soon the world) is urban—how can we trans­late the pow­er of grow­ing one’s own food into some­thing that urban com­mu­ni­ties can both see, feel, and do?

For one thing—community gar­dens. There is a com­mu­ni­ty gar­den here in Altade­na and I’ve been on the wait­ing list for five years. I final­ly got a plot.

I think there should be ten times as many com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens. I think all the vacant lots should be turned into gar­dens. I think there should be munic­i­pal pro­grams that con­vert land into com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens. I think there should be poli­cies that favor low income and apart­ment dwellers to get first dibs on com­mu­ni­ty gar­den plots. I’d love to see an end to lack of sup­ply. There should not be any­one who wants to gar­den and is unable to gar­den. 

The worst parts of myself keep say­ing: well, he has a career, he has a fam­i­ly, he owns a house in the beau­ti­ful suburbs—he is in the per­fect posi­tion to under­take this. I want to trav­el the world and road trip and eat what­ev­er I want, and then I’ll set­tle down. What would you say to that? 

That real­ly ties into the moral part. You can’t stop burn­ing fos­sil fuels cold turkey. So there has to be some slack time and you have to do what you can. It’s such a hard ques­tion. I’ve been think­ing about the moral­i­ty part because it’s not only about not burn­ing fos­sil fuels, but about doing every­thing you can to move away from that sys­tem. But it seems unsat­is­fy­ing to say that. It seems like a cop out. But it took me a long time, many years, to get to this point. And I only reduced by a fac­tor of one ten­th. I do have a lot of priv­i­lege. I was for­tu­nate in my career that I was able to move from Cal­tech to JPL, which I just hap­pen to live a few miles away from.

Every­thing I do saves me mon­ey. So there are peo­ple who go about this a dif­fer­ent way—buy solar pan­els and elec­tric cars and such. And that’s a priv­i­lege. But the way I’ve gone about it is a way that every­one can go about it.

All I can talk about is my expe­ri­ence. Every­one is going to have his or her own path. Fly­ing is the tough­est. If you fly more than 10,000 miles a year, chances are very good that fly­ing will be your largest source of emis­sions.

What we want now out of trav­el expe­ri­ences are cheap, con­ve­nient and fast trips. Instead, we could sub­sti­tute oth­er val­ues, such as adven­ture and greater depth of trav­el expe­ri­ence. I think a lot of peo­ple would sign up for ocean trav­el if we had more vaca­tion days. 

Ital­ian work­ers have four weeks of paid vaca­tion, by law, and ten addi­tion­al paid hol­i­days, and when you tell them about the US, they can’t believe it. We put prof­it too high up. We are will­ing to run in this rat race with no vaca­tion time, bare­ly any mater­nal or pater­nal leave, we put our kids in daycare…the whole sys­tem is inter­con­nect­ed and it needs to change.

We need to make a world that’s fun to live in and good for humans—not good for cor­po­ra­tions. There’s noth­ing wrong with being suc­cess­ful but we need to rede­fine suc­cess. We have to rethink pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and what cor­po­ra­tions are for—are they to amass as much wealth in one place as pos­si­ble and rule the world? Or are cor­po­ra­tions there to help us live hap­pier lives?

Arugula and white sage grow in the front yard.

Arugu­la and white sage grow in the front yard.

What do you miss from your old life?

Let me reframe that: what would I keep doing if glob­al warm­ing sud­den­ly dis­ap­peared? I’d keep biking—I love bik­ing. I’d keep gar­den­ing. I’d keep hav­ing chick­ens. I’d keep hav­ing bees. I’d keep doing sci­ence. I might even­tu­al­ly go back to astro­physics, at least part time. I used to search for grav­i­ta­tion­al waves, and I also used to enjoy think­ing about cos­mol­o­gy. I end­ed up becom­ing an Earth sci­en­tist because I couldn’t stop think­ing about glob­al warm­ing so I had to study it full time.

I’d prob­a­bly fly from time to time. But that one I’d have to think about because I have gained a lot by giv­ing up fly­ing. One of the things that was real­ly sur­pris­ing about giv­ing up fly­ing is that I think my rela­tion­ship with my par­ents is closer now [because our time is more pre­cious togeth­er].

What will it take to con­vince peo­ple of human made cli­mate change?

If I could answer that we’d prob­a­bly not have glob­al warm­ing right now. But I think the way things are going to go the effects of cli­mate change are going to be more and more sev­ere and start affect­ing more and more peo­ple direct­ly and then peo­ple will have friends or rel­a­tives who are direct­ly affect­ed. So once peo­ple feel it direct­ly and start hav­ing eco­nom­ic loss­es and even loss­es of life or know­ing peo­ple who that’s hap­pened to then they will quick­ly believe it and demand that politi­cians do some­thing.

But then again, George Mar­shall claims that it’s actu­al­ly the oppo­site, that when peo­ple expe­ri­ence cli­mate-relat­ed dis­as­ters they’re actu­al­ly less like­ly to believe in glob­al warm­ing.4 They get caught up in the imme­di­a­cy of rebuild­ing, and they need to pre­tend that the dis­as­ter was a one-time thing, not part of a glob­al, increas­ing trend, some­thing that might hap­pen in the future with increas­ing fre­quen­cy.

So may­be what it will take will be a lot of us telling this new sto­ry through how we live, and grad­u­al­ly shift­ing the cul­ture.

Do you think it’ll be too late?

In some sens­es, it’s already too late. The thing about glob­al warm­ing is that it’s not an on-or-off thing. It’s a ‘how bad is it ulti­mate­ly going to get’ sort of thing. No mat­ter how quick­ly we ramp down our emis­sions, it’s going to be bad. If we wait anoth­er 10 years to ramp down our emis­sions it’s prob­a­bly going to be pret­ty awful. If we wait twen­ty years, it’s going to be tru­ly hor­ren­dous.

You have two kids—ever feel bad for them?

It’s not clear to me that I’d be doing all this if I didn’t have kids.

When my kids were born, it was a big kick out of my own self­ish­ness. You can’t put into words how hav­ing kids, some bell goes off in your head, and every­thing changes. I went through this process of griev­ing about glob­al warm­ing and this eco­log­i­cal predica­ment and all of this stuff that we’re los­ing, in my opin­ion, need­less­ly. After going through that process of griev­ing, that’s when I went into over­drive and thought I can do noth­ing and feel ter­ri­ble about this or I can do every­thing I can pos­si­bly do which might not be enough but at least it’s every­thing I can pos­si­bly do. But frankly, yes, it’s a lit­tle bit fright­en­ing to me the world they might grow up in. I don’t know what it’s going to look like.

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Dur­ing our three-hour chat, I was sur­prised by how Kalmus could deliv­er such dra­mat­ic news about our plan­et with an air of seren­i­ty. I sup­pose it has to do with his moral align­ment, his med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, and his end­less sup­ply of avo­ca­dos.

By the end of our talk, Kalmus was late to pick up his kids. So he put on his hel­met, grabbed his bike, and rode off into the Altade­na sun­set.


Peter Kalmus received both his under­grad­u­ate degree, from Har­vard, and doc­tor­ate, from Columbia, in physics. His per­son­al web­site is becy​cling​.life; his opin­ions are his own, and not nec­es­sar­i­ly those of NASA, the Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­to­ry, or Cal­tech. An arti­cle he wrote about his deci­sion to stop fly­ing is in Yes Mag­a­zine, and his forth­com­ing book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Cli­mate Rev­o­lu­tion, will be released by New Soci­ety Pub­lish­ers in spring 2017. 

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Alice Gold­smith

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1 — Per cap­i­ta emis­sions are mea­sured both for CO2 and for green­house gas­es col­lec­tive­ly (methane and oth­er gas­es also con­tribute to glob­al warm­ing). A Google search for ‘per cap­i­ta emis­sions’ often returns the CO2 mea­sure­ment, but the total GHG mea­sure­ment will be high­er; for 2012, the US per cap­i­ta GHG esti­mate is 19.98 tons, per the Emis­sions Data­base for Glob­al Atmos­pher­ic Research.

In addi­tion, US states vary wide­ly, and indi­vid­u­al and house­hold emis­sions are often a func­tion of wealth matched with lifestyle; afflu­ent sub­urbs in the US tend to have the largest house­hold car­bon foot­prints. The Cool Cli­mate project at UC Berke­ley cre­at­ed an inter­ac­tive map of the Unit­ed States show­ing house­hold emis­sions by Zip Code, as well as a more detailed emis­sions map for the Bay Area. The Cool Cli­mate maps attempt to fac­tor in embod­ied emis­sions from prod­ucts made over­seas, as well as trav­el.

Peter Kalmus adds: “The truth is that we prob­a­bly only know a per cap­i­ta mea­sure­ment to with­in a few tons, prob­a­bly in the range of 17–23 tons after includ­ing inter­na­tion­al ship­ping, air trav­el, and off­shoring of man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts.” As an exam­ple of ‘off­shoring emis­sions,’ our com­put­ers and phones are typ­i­cal­ly made in Chi­na, and the emis­sions from their man­u­fac­ture are count­ed on the Chi­ne­se side, though the prod­ucts end up in the US.

2 — Kalmus com­posts every­thing organ­ic, except paper and fab­ric. “Paper gets recy­cled, fab­ric donat­ed or turned into rags and even­tu­al­ly thrown in the land­fill. I tried com­post­ing cot­ton fab­ric but it just goes too slow­ly.”

3 — Regard­ing addic­tion, mobile devices, and social media: “We Are Hope­less­ly Hooked”, Jacob Weis­berg, The New York Review of Books, 2/25/16; “They’ve Got You, Wherever You are”, Jacob Weis­berg, The New York Review of Books, 10/27/16. Polit­i­cal polar­iza­tion can become inher­ent in a social media busi­ness plan. See: “Facebook’s Attack on Democ­ra­cy”, Quentin Hardy, The New York Times, 8/26/16; “Hyper­par­ti­san Face­book pages…”, Craig Sil­ver­man, Buz­zFeed News, 10/20/16.  In con­trast, open gov­er­nance on a site can make the con­tent more accu­rate, and less polar­iz­ing. See: “Wikipedia is fix­ing one of the internet’s biggest flaws”, Jeff Guo, Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/25/16

4 — George Mar­shall “Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Cli­mate Change,”  reviewed in Wash­ing­ton Post, 8/21/14