Saturday, January 12, 2008

Low-impact transparency

Steve was just over and talking about a lecture on grass he recently went to, about how the guy was saying that grass was so perfect for competition and neighborhood peer pressure because it's so visible.

One's carbon footprint, on the other hand, is anything but visible. Yes, the size of your car is visible, but how much do your drive it? The size of your house is visible, but how well is it insulated? How much do you heat it? How much of it do you heat? Etc.

If greater transparancy could be had around footprints, people's behavior could change. What if everyone in a town (or a select plurality) registered odometer readings on Jan 1 and then on 12/31? Give out prices to the house with the lowest mileage, the block with the lowest mileage (to enclose carpooling). Get people into it year 1, then in year 2 expand the competition to include more metrics (kilowatt hrs, therms). Have towns compete with each other for per capita footprint, etc.

The main idea is to get people into really monitoring themselves and to make it fun. But also to be transparent about it. There's a lot of peer pressure around dandelions and other weeds in the suburbs, neighbors may hiss at you behind your back if you're suspected of infecting their lawn. Lets put some more of that superego nastiness into the discourse of global warming.

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