This is an entry I wrote on a sunny, louvered porch in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, last fall.
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
You’re probably wondering why my ecological footprint has exploded over the past two weeks, why I’m trampling the environment with gigantic shoes. The answer is simple: I’m in the USA. And because I’m just visiting, I can’t arrange things the way I’d like them.
First, the transportation: airplanes brought me and my baggage here, more than 8,200 kilometers (some 5,100 miles), and hopefully they’ll bring me back the more than 8,500 kilometers (some 5,300 miles) in one piece. In the process, they release incredible amounts of emissions directly into the vulnerable sky. Fortunately I do this very rarely, and the next time I get paid, I’ll make a donation and ask for atonement.
Then I’ve got a little rental car, which I don’t use every day, since I’m spending time staying with lots of nice people, but it is covering a considerable distance (around 1,000 miles so far). Unfortunately this is essential, because otherwise I’d be dependent on other people chauffeuring me around to an extent that perhaps famous writers could reckon with. And while I’m here I can’t be so strict about my vegetarian diet, and so the airplanes will have a heavier load to take back, and countless animals, above all cows, will have died for my sake, of course not without previously releasing large quantities of methane into the atmosphere. (Forgoing meat and milk products, I recently heard in an episode of Freakonomics on NPR, here, is the surest way to eat an environmentally friendly diet. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t run on NPR Berlin.)
And then the trash: all the disposable cups and silverware and packaging used on the flight alone, even though it supposedly gets recycled! Here all the coffee shops serve everything with paper cups, plates and bags, and when I ask for tap water, I’m given it in a thin, transparent cup that tastes obnoxiously of plastic the very second time you use it. At least I do without the straws now.
Then there’s the air conditioning, always running and usually much too cold for me. At a reading in the Baton Rouge Gallery on Sunday it was set at 71° Fahrenheit, when it was about 96° outside! Now I’m sitting completely un-air conditioned on a screened-in veranda, and after just a few days in Louisiana I feel that I have a sort of fresh glow. Not because of the air conditioning, but despite it…
I admit that there’s also a certain clandestine attraction to living as carelessly and excessively as most Americans. But in just a week, dear Universe, I’ll be good again, saving and recycling, riding my bike, walking, running to the train and riding it and letting countless animals live. See you then!
Translated by Isabel Cole