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Friday, December 14, 2007

Paying off the planet

A few months back I noticed a banner ad on the web and decided to click over to have a look.  It had a soft green color scheme showing trees, along with the words:

"Offset your carbon emissions with JNF.  Go Neutral!"

When I clicked over I was taken to a very slick 'Carbon Calculator' meant to help figure out your family's 'carbon footprint', and how many trees -  of the JNF variety, one would assume - you'd need to plant in order to offset all that nasty carbon mon/di-oxide you are selfishly spewing into the atmosphere.

So I figured what the heck, as long as I didn't have to provide an email address or phone number I'm up for a challenge.

It turns out that my 'GoNeutral number (the number of trees I'd need to plant) in order to clean up the damage I'm doing to the earth is 26.  Not bad.  But then I started thinking (always a dangerous thing when I start doing that)... and it occurred to me that those results were kinda vague.

For instance, one can assume that 26 little saplings aren't going to be able to cleanse the air of all my family's carbon output... so they are actually talking about 26 full grown trees.  So Is that a one-time thing... plant your trees and then go on with a lifetime of guilt-free polluting... or do I have to plant 26 trees every year in order to be able to enjoy my carbon-producing habits in peace?

Then I started thinking about who the target audience was for that banner ad.  Most of the people who are meant to view the ad (and hopefully purchase JNF trees) live elsewhere (i.e. not in Israel), so while the trees they are purchasing will scrub my air here in the holy land quite nicely thankyouverymuch, those generous souls will continue to wallow in their own emissions in their stark, treeless neighborhoods.

I guess the snarky points I'm trying to make are:

It may be that the JNF thinks people aren't buying trees for purely Zionistic reasons anymore and so are trying to position themselves in such a way as to appeal to the earthy-crunchy-organic granola crowd.  But IMHO no amount of pretty graphics are likely to get the cloth diaper crowd to take out their credit card for Israel.  Much of that demographic eats the BBC and NPR for breakfast and poops kafiyas for lunch.

Erosion prevention and topsoil replacement are much more pressing issues here in Israel than carbon neutralization... but they require a focused concern for the country in order to sell trees.  It sort of bothers me that the JNF (which does wonderful work) feels the need to try to subtly deflect attention from the fact that this is about supporting/improving Israel. 

Simply put, if you are going to plant trees in Israel, that should be your motivation... not some bogus voodoo-mathematics about neutralizing carbon emissions all over the world.

Now go plant a tree (for the right reason)!

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on December 14, 2007 | Permalink

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poops kafiyas

That is quite...descriptive.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 14, 2007 11:06:46 AM

During shmittah????

Posted by: mother in israel | Dec 14, 2007 11:59:48 AM

Jack... It's a gift.

Mother in Israel... I didn't see anything on their site about shmita, but I have to think that either they have a way of dealing with the issues or they use the donations for permitted, non-planting stuff and defer their budget for planting until after shmita. It may be that they take your donation for a tree and use it to pay for national park clean up and then next year take money for planting out of the clean up budget. JNF deals with a lot of things.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 14, 2007 4:22:54 PM

Umm, what about JNF's little, ah, "mistakes"....like allowing land they purchased to be stolen right out from under their noses, and doing absolutely nothing about it?

Ever since I saw those reports, I had a hard time even considering giving JNF any money...

Shabbat Shalom

Posted by: tnspr569 | Dec 14, 2007 4:32:22 PM

"For instance, one can assume that 26 little saplings aren't going to be able to cleanse the air of all my family's carbon output... so they are actually talking about 26 full grown trees."

It figures out to one ton per tree. Saplings won't do it, apparently.

Actually, if you really want to remove carbon from the atmosphere, then we need to bulldoze entire forests and bury them deep, to seal off that nasty carbon from the world; then replant.

Posted by: Mark Patterson | Dec 14, 2007 5:28:14 PM

Hey, not all Environmentalists are Anti-Israel. People like to group certain things with other things. Environmentalism is a big democratic party theme, but there are many Democrats who are pro-israel, and think the BBC news teams should go...at least I hope there are:)

Posted by: Brad | Dec 14, 2007 11:03:07 PM

Hey, not all Environmentalists are Anti-Israel. People like to group certain things with other things. Environmentalism is a big democratic party theme, but there are many Democrats who are pro-israel, and think the BBC news teams should go...at least I hope there are:)

Posted by: Brad | Dec 14, 2007 11:03:14 PM

Plant all the trees you want, and drive hybrids, and change light-bulbs, but come up with a better reason than "saving the planet from global weather change."

If you change for that reason, I suspect you'll be very disappointed with what the future has in store.

Nom sayn?

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Dec 15, 2007 1:04:28 AM

From what I've read, trees absorb the most carbon dioxide when they are growing, meaning that a forest planted 100 years ago will do less than a forest planted 5 years ago.

As far as trees planted in Israel versus trees planted near those emitting carbon, Israel would receive the greatest local impact, but the world on a whole would still benefit. Particles in the atmosphere tend to distribute themselves evenly (proportionally to local temperature and pressure), so a reduced amount of carbon dioxide in Israel means that carbon dioxide from neighboring regions would move to Israel.

Not that those reasons are entirely compelling, as compared to the reason trees have been planted in the past, but global warming sells.

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: Brian Nickel | Dec 15, 2007 1:33:16 AM

so what have you got against cloth diapers? Little Baby Sinai Thompson is growing up in them and growing up very nicely thank you

Posted by: asher | Dec 16, 2007 12:53:46 PM

What's wrong with both approaches? In marketing, you have to know your audience and thankfully, young people today are more environmentally aware and sensitive, so its a great approach. Perhaps they can expand on it and use your suggestions as well. No need to limit the benefits.

Question - how many Israelis today have an appreciation for the JNF and it's role in reforesting Israel? I truly don't know... just asking.

Also on your snide comments about the target audience - I agree with that BBC isn't a friend to Israel or Jews but the NPR comment is way out of line. You are overgeneralizing don't you think? I would take NPR over any station that supports North, Rush, Farah, Coulter, Savage and the like. Those folks are so far in denial when it comes to health of our planet and how as individuals and consumers we are responsible for the dire straits we are in, it's not only embarrassing but a real shame.

Posted by: jaime | Dec 16, 2007 7:03:17 PM

Dear David,

I went to the KKL/JNF website but could not find this calculator thingy, do you have a link?
Also, 26 trees sounds like an awful lot, and I would think that it would be per year, as you will be making the same trips this year next year and so on, ad 120
Fact is that one plane journey cancels out an awful lot of car-pooling much as I appreciate your car-pooling

My little baby uses cloth diapers, as I do not want his contribution to the development of the Negev to start with a lot of landfill

Finally though, do you take into account the massive military presence in your area, part (most) of which is to look after you guys in Turdistan (East and West) and the fact that army vehicles are not famed for fuel economy (nor are army drivers who leave motors running for hours and so-on)?

(The darker side of) Asher

Posted by: the darker side of asher | Dec 17, 2007 12:43:00 PM

For what it's worth, I am a proud card-carrying member of the earthy-crunchy-organic granola movement AND a zionist. The two aren't opposites, you know.

Posted by: AnotherBT | Dec 19, 2007 9:38:25 PM

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