What Do You Do for the Environment?

As we wade into Thanksgiving and the holiday season, does one less cross-country airline flight sound like too much to ask?
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Al Gore finally made climate change "real" - god forbid, even trendy. So have you changed the way you live yet? And no, I don't mean buying guilt passes to add on to your airline tickets and offset your carbon footprint. I don't mean driving the oh-so-highly touted Chevrolet Tahoe or Cadillac Escalade, both of which were announced in hybrid models in Los Angeles last week. (Those vehicles now harness all the technology the 21st Century can offer to deliver around 20 miles per gallon - a fraction of what a Honda Civic got in the mid 1980s.) I'm talking about the kind of adjustments to your personal lifestyle and changes of long-engrained habit that Webster might define as "sacrifice"; The kind of changes that will actually make a difference. The kind of changes that acknowledge that the world is shared among a population that dwarfs that of the United States and Europe and has its own emerging needs, which will be hard to deny. It's past time.

The latest United Nations report this week characterized our planet as hurtling itself off the deep end unless something is done - and fast. That might make it easy to vote urgently on environmental issue next November, or even to demand our representatives start quickly making legislation and broad-stroke sacrifices to cut the toes off our national carbon footprint now. But those measures - which could result in things like a $5 gallon of gas or $4 Costa Rican bananas at the supermarket -- are not likely to be taken until we prove we are committed to them with more than our votes.

So what are YOU going to do? As we wade into Thanksgiving and the holiday season, does one less cross-country airline flight sound like too much to ask? How about a weekend around the house in place of a drive into the mountains? Perhaps its time that bicycle of yours gets more than a novel spin around town. (Lots of people bike to work, why can't you?) It's time to consider what we, as four percent of the earth's population yet citizens of the most polluting country on the planet, are actually entitled to as our fair share of the limited resources available. Calculated mathematically, it's not much. And so maybe a bit of real change at home is not too much to ask.

Bio: Abrahm Lustgarten is a contributing writer for Fortune magazine and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for international reporting. His articles, including many on globalization and energy issues and the environment, have appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Outside, and Salon. His book China's Great Train, a non-fiction narrative about that country's economic expansion to its wild west and Tibet, is due out in May.

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