GREENWASHING our Conscious-a Performance Art Story

I thought this article was important in that it makes the point, very vividly, of how many of us in a sense, 'greenwash our conscious' when it comes to our own carbon footprints. I agree with her that carbon offsetting is not a bad thing, but directly to her point it is not and should not be the starting point. Change is difficult, but necessary, far too much is at stake and each of us has the power to make a difference in terms of our carbon footprints. Put down the keys, pump up the tires, get on the bike...

Bob Jellison
Portland State University

Artist Pollutes to Criticize Carbon Offsets

Sometimes to make a point, you have to release some greenhouse gas. On September 29, artist Francesca Galeazzi climbed to a pristine spot on the Jakobshavn fiord in Greenland and—to the shock and horror of her fellow travelers—released a 6 kg tank of CO2 gas. “The CO2 came out violently, freezing the air around the nozzle,” she wrote on her website.
Galeazzi’s act of pollution may have been blatant, but it was just a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of carbon emissions each of us produces, and we do so no less consciously. In the U.S., that number is nearly 20 metric tonnes per person per year. Before Galeazzi pulled the stunt, she purchased an equivalent offset from one of the online Gold Standard Carbon Offsetting schemes—demonstrating how many of us justify our bad behavior. Buying carbon offsets seems to be a growing trend among the green-conscious, a form of environmental penance in which you can pay cash to have someone else wipe away your carbon footprint. In a recent interview, Galeazzi explained her criticism of carbon offsets:
Instead of embracing change, we are inventing new mechanisms to greenwash our consciences, in a way. I didn’t want to say that carbon offsetting is bad because I believe it plays a role within our strategy to tackle climate change. But not as a starting point.
Galeazzi was traveling as part of an expedition of artists and scientists organized by Cape Farewell. She kept her performance art piece a secret until the last moment because she wanted to see her fellow travelers’ gut reactions. Some were supportive, many were outraged, and one person refused to talk to her afterwards.

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