Carbon pawprint, or what to do when values collide?

We’re happiest, I think, when our actions are overdetermined by our values. That is, it’s nice when our values all point in the same direction.

Why do I bike to work? Well, it’s nice to have time outside moving before beginning a busy stressful work day. I’m frugal and I hate paying for parking. Also, in my house we don’t each have a car. We share and it’s silly to have a car others could use parked in parking lot all day that I’m paying to use.

It’s also good for fitness in terms of everyday movement. And it fits with my environmental values. We really shouldn’t drive short distances around town when there are options.

You get the picture. There are lots of reasons all pointing in the same direction.

Ditto walking Cheddar the dog. He likes it. I like it. It’s good for both of us. And it’s not bad for the environment.

But that’s not always true. Sometimes I drive Cheddar to the dog park. Sometimes I put my bike in the car and drive somewhere to ride with friends. Heck, sometimes I even put my bike in a plane and then in a car to go ride in a different place.

In these cases, dog park and distant riding, my environmental values don’t fit with my other values.

Dogs in a side by side bike trailer

In the thread above there was a discussion of cargo bikes that fit dogs to get them to the dog park.

And while I guess that might work, I think I would have needed to start Cheddar out in a trailer when he was a younger dog.

We often take him to the dog park for the company of other dogs and so that he can run, even if I can’t.

I try to approach these issues by thinking about the overall results of my actions. Yes, I occasionally drive when I needn’t but overall my lifestyle is pretty low car. Yes, I occasionally drive somewhere to ride bikes with friends but on balance the bike centric lifestyle I lead is pretty environmentally friendly. I’m not going to fret if it’s not perfect. (I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I think about the book Tracy is working on on imperfect veganism.)

How about you? Do you ever drive to the dog park or take your bike in the car?

Cheddar and Chase

4 thoughts on “Carbon pawprint, or what to do when values collide?

  1. I don’t have a dog and rarely drive my bike, but I think about these issues a lot as I live in a 15 minute neighbourhood and hang out with cargo-bike owners. I do drive to ride my horse, ironically contributing to the climate change disaster that partly led me to get a horse so I would have survival skills when the disaster arrives.

  2. I do both those things – drive the dog around and drive my bike around. And truly, having a dog at ALL probably conflicts with my environmental values. But…. hello. I’m not me without a big, goofy dog. And this dog-life aligns with my fitness goals, some other social justice-y goals (he’s done quite a lot of therapy-dog work). And, after a move from Illinois to Michigan, he’s helped me learn my new place. He needs to walk, so we go find new parks and experiences. I hand-wave at the corners of my life where there’s a little values-dissonance, apparently.

  3. I think that’s such a perfect example of why we need systemic solutions, not (just) individual ones! If you could just hop on a bus to get to the dog park – or even better if your street had been converted into a dog-friendly, no cars street – this might no longer be a trade-off…

    The fossil fuel, planet-killing industry has made us all feel so guilty about our individual choices while at the same time preventing systemic solutions.

  4. Sure, I drive to bike rides sometimes. Actually, I once went about 18 months without a car. Ironically, the one time I really needed a car was when I was meeting my bike club for its Sunday rides. They rotated around the area (San Francisco Bay Area) which is quite large so women (it’s a women’s bike club) could get to know the cool rides closest to them. Some of my weekly rides were at a considerable distance from me, and there was no public transit available early on Sundays.

    Driving a dog? We had a border collie a number of years ago, and we had the clever idea of getting a bike trailer so she could go farther with us than she was ready to run. Well, the first time we took her out, we were going up a hill and we passed another dog. She actually hid her head in shame! On the way back, she was running along with the bikes (border collies are FAST), and she pranced proudly as we passed the same area. So, I laughed at the picture of the dogs in the sidecar.

    I agree with Rachel that systemic changes are needed. In the same vein, I think that none of us can or should be 100% good/ethical/ conscientious/whatever you choose to call it. I often think, what if everyone in the world walked on one more errand regularly? kept those plastic toothbrushes an extra couple of months? took their own bags shopping…and so on. We could make a big difference without having to change our own ways in any particularly painful way. And that could help us transition gently to a future with less plastic, less smog, less debris, a more stable climate.

    Feeling guilty doesn’t improve anything. Caring and aiming to make a personal difference does. But drive the dog when that makes your day and the dog’s day distinctly better!

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