It’s not exactly a objective science, but I think there are things you can tell about people from looking at their garbage. For instance if you went poking around in the stuff we throw away at my house, you’d probably be able to tell that we eat a lot of chicken. What does that tell you about us? Probably not all that much, but when President Obama’s secretary of animal welfare tries to ban poultry products because “it’s cruel to the chicken”, you’ll probably be able to tell which side of the argument I’ll be on.
In 21st century America, much of what used to end up in people’s garbage is actually ending up for sale on Ebay. Ergo I think there are conclusions you can draw about the future of America from looking at the junk that they have for sale there. I’m not talking the new name brand items mind you, in that respect all the Ebay stores are probably just trying to compete with odd-lot and overstock.com. No, I mean the stuff that people pull up out of their basement when they’re cleaning up and think to themselves, “It would be a shame to just throw this away, maybe someone will buy it on Ebay”.
We did a little of that at my house recently too. I listed a left handed Bob Allen shooting vest that I never wear, and a very nice pair of lizard skin cowboy boots that I got as a gift but never fit me quite right. And since we were there, my wife and I tried a little experiment in liberal thinking and listed a “Carbon Credit” for sale as well.
You know what a “Carbon Credit” is don’t you? It’s the thing that Al Gore uses to justify his massive personal consumption of fossil fuels and the subsequent trail of pollution that he leaves behinds him everywhere his lear jet goes. The idea is that although Al consumes as much energy as your average third world city, he can still preach to the rest of us because he “offsets” his pollution production by paying someone to take that CO2 out of the atmosphere for him.
The way it basically works is that there are companies out there that will sell you a CC which works by them planting trees on your behalf. The trees will grow every year and remove Carbon from the atmosphere as they do. If you are an average person in America you can reduce your cumulative pollution by buying a few carbon credits, and if you’re a guy like Al, you just plant a bunch more. You haven’t bought the actual tree mind you. You might get a certificate or something, but no one is going to show up at your house with lumber. You’ve only bought the service of having the tree remove the carbon from the atmosphere for you. And if you buy enough of them, then you too can claim the moral high ground in the pollution debate.
Well I don’t know much about that, but I do know something about markets. And it seemed to me that if a big company can make a bunch of money selling whole forests to a guy like Al, then I should be able to get in on the act too. And as a coincidence, my wife and I had a tree in our yard which was casting a shadow on the solar heater for our pool and we were considering cutting it down anyway. So I said, “Hey wait a minute hon… why should we be so greedy… let’s leave that tree there and let someone buy it as a carbon credit. It won’t be worth much, but at least we’ll be doing our part to assuage the guilt of some jet setting liberal somewhere, and if our pool is ½ a degree colder come September, I think I can live with that.”
So that’s what we did. We took a picture of the tree in question, did a little online research about the amount of carbon it would pull from the atmosphere, and listed it as a service on ebay. You can see it here.
Anyway, Ebay was having none of that. They left it up there for sale for about three days and eventually pulled it because they claimed it violated some policy of theirs. It didn’t of course, and they refused to provide any details of what they claim it violated. But the fact is, we were trying to sell precisely the same service that’s offered by any of the other companies selling carbon credits. The only difference is the amount of carbon it will process. In fairness, it might just be some fascist tendency of Ebay… you know where the product is OK if it’s from a big company but not OK if it’s from some little guy in New Jersey, but I don’t really think that’s what it’s about.
I think in the end the reason the pulled the ad was because they know in their hearts that the entire idea of a “carbon credit” is based on the thinnest kind of science at best. A product that doesn’t do anything except smooth over the self congratulatory guilt of some liberal isn’t actually a product at all as far as they’re concerned. And in reality, they are probably not worth anything at all no matter who is selling them. They don’t pull the ads from the big companies because the political backlash would be too great but they see no reason to allow the little guy to make a buck off it as well. The truth is, they probably think all Carbon Credits are a scam, but they just can’t prove it.
As for me and my wife, we’ll never call anything a scam if someone is willing to pay us for it, even if it actually is. For the right price, we’ll believe almost anything you want us to when it comes to global warming. It’s all part of our experiment in liberal thinking. Where making a buck is concerned, we’re no longer worried about the truth, only its value on the market place. We’ll sell you our share of sunshine as well as soon as some Bay Area genius comes up with a way to commoditize it. That is, we will so long as Ebay allows us to. And so far it doesn’t look like Ebay is really buying into the global warming hype, no matter what they’re press relations people might say.
So what does all this say about America? Well here’s my take on it. The fact is, the global warming movement is counting on the idea that people will be willing to endure some level of suffering in order to be viewed as (and be able to describe themselves as) “moral” with regard to environment. But the fact is, the economic realities of that equation haven’t really been worked out. So long as it’s a small inconvenience, it might be true, but when we’re all cold and in the dark, many of us will be willing to burn radioactive baby seal oil to stay warm and to hell with the environment. Ebay may think its fine to make a statement to the press about being environmentally sensitive, but when they run the risk of a tarnished corporate image when people try to sell what is obviously a valueless commodity, they decide it’s just not worth the price.
They would rather lose me as a customer by pulling my item without explanation than run a risk like that. And that’s the same kind of decision everyone in America will eventually be forced to make as well. The fact is, Americans would rather have low unemployment, electric lights, and a fully modern economy that leaves a little CO2 in the air than deal with all the pain, cold and other realities of a carbon free 13th century world that the environmental activists would have us endure. At the end of the day the social good they want isn’t worth the cost. And when Americans realize that this is the choice they're making, that will be that with environmentalism.