No Impact Man: We Are a Nation of Oiloholics

The New York Daily News recently published an op-ed by Colin Beavan, the famous blogger known as “No Impact Man“, in which he accuses Americans of being “oiloholics”. Consider these facts from his piece:

We in the United States drive 20 times more miles a year than the Mexicans and twice as many as the Japanese. We use 10 times more electricity per person than the Egyptians and twice as much as the Saudis. To power this energy thirst, we each, on average, consume 10 times more oil per person than the Chinese and twice as much as the Germans. We burn seven times more coal per person than the Indians and three times more than the Brits. For all the talk of China’s climate emissions, each American still emits four times more greenhouse gas than each Chinese.

He goes on to suggest that we all take some personal responsibility in the matter:

Typically, our knee-jerk is to blame the greedy corporations and do-nothing politicians. But how much more could be accomplished if each American accepted that he or she plays a part in the problem and therefore could contribute to the solution?

I 100% agree with Mr. Beavan, and riding a bike for transportation is one of the most effective things we can do to contribute to the solution.

NY Daily
No Impact Man

10 Responses to “No Impact Man: We Are a Nation of Oiloholics”

  • Adam says:

    With the bicycle, you not only do you fight the oil crisis, but also the American obesity epidemic.

  • Yangmusa says:

    Quite a lot of vitriol directed at Colin Beavan in the comments section of the NY Daily. Many people took offense that he compared the energy use per person in developing countries, taking it to mean that Americans must sacrifice their “non negotiable” lifestyle for the environment. Although the earth cannot sustain even the levels of energy use and consumption seen in Europe, it might have been worth pointing out that all of western Europe uses significantly less energy per person – and many countries manage that while their citizens have equal, or in some cases higher, quality of life. Having grown up in Scandinavia, I think the US is a noticeable step down in many ways (though California weather isn’t one of them!)

  • Nate Briggs says:

    Watching the documentary movie featuring this same gentleman, I was struck by the enormous lengths he went to during his yearlong “no impact” project.

    He, and his family, suffered profound inconvenience and discomfort at times.

    Compare that to the ease and satisfaction of self-propelled transportation. It’s the right thing to do, and it is actually a better, happier option than the motorized method.

    - Nate (SLC)

  • Stephen says:

    The NYDN comments were indeed demoralizing, although the first thing that occurred to me was the first two steps in Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief. Of course we are partly responsible for what’s going on in the Gulf. Of course we use far too much energy. Of course we think that energy use = freedom = happiness. Of course this is simply wrong, perverse, and immoral. The easy part is to recognize that, once you get beyond the jingoism and hostility. The hard part is what to do next. The easy part of THAT is to hop on your bicycle whenever you can. Thank God bicycling is still fun!

  • Buck-50 says:

    I agree with the sentiment, but I really hate it when people pick and choose statistics. Yes, we use twice as much oil than the Germans, but how do we compare on driving, electricity and coal? Again, I get where he’s going but this kind of statistical hash makes it really easy for someone, say the comments section of the NY daily news, to pick his argument apart and deflect his actual point.

    What has unfortunately happened is that conservation in general has been tied to burlap wearing hippies instead of explaining that conserving energy saves money, money that can then be freed up for things you’d rather spend it on. We’ve dropped our energy bill by over $100 bucks a month over 5 years. Didn’t do it because we love the earth, didn’t have to suffer at all, we did it because it saves money. Makes it easier to go out to eat every now and then.

    Same with driving- I ride my bike to work because it makes me happy and because it helps me drive my car less than 3000 miles every 6 moths. That saves me money on insurance, on gas, on wear and tear, etc.

    We need to make conservation (of, land, energy, resources, water, money) smart and patriotic and make waste (especially stupid waste) as unpopular as smoking in a restaurant.

  • Molnar says:

    There is a simple rule some people seem not to have learned, so allow me to state it here: Never ever ever read the comments to newspaper articles. Unless it’s the Grauniad bike blog or you are writing a paper on abnormal psychology.

  • John Boyer says:

    Lets face it. Man must control the planet. Not pretend were not here. I dont get the “no impact idea” We’ve simply done too much damage to it so therefor we must increase our responsibility over our planet so that it serves us furthermore.

    We have impact. No two ways about it. Its a choice of are you a good(survival) impact or a negative(nonsurvival) one.

  • cezar says:

    “There is a simple rule some people seem not to have learned, so allow me to state it here: Never ever ever read the comments to newspaper articles. Unless it’s the Grauniad bike blog or you are writing a paper on abnormal psychology.”

    Amen

  • Adam says:

    John Boyer: “We have impact. No two ways about it. Its a choice of are you a good(survival) impact or a negative(nonsurvival) one.”

    Well put.

  • Jack says:

    Supporting alternatives (like commuting with bikes) are great but also necessary are higher taxes/prices on fossil fuels. However, Americans (76%) said they would be less likely to vote for any politician who “supported an energy bill that would make families pay more for gas and energy.” So what’s the chances for change when politicians are incentivized to do nothing but support the status quo? Just wait for Peak Oil and more unprepared catastrophes? In addition he public’s attitude of “What me sacrifice so my neighbor can be subsidized” gets in the way of individual responsibility too often.

 
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