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Celebrate Coal (or, How I Just Tripled My Carbon Footprint)

Our individual carbon footprints are a function of consumption, which, in turn, is a derivative of individual wealth. Accordingly, my carbon footprint should be small, because I am poor. As an adult, I've never lived in a space larger than a room, and I don't drive.

Despite my inconspicuous consumption, I have an enormous carbon footprint. Indeed my carbon footprint is so big that it rivals that of a mega-consumer like Leonardo de Caprio, or even a super-mega consumer like Al Gore.

How is that possible? My ex-wife and I buy ten thousand pounds of coal every fall for the Kyrgyz family with whom we lived while we served in the Peace Corps. Burning a ton of coal emits about 3 tons of carbon into the atmosphere, so we are responsible for 30 tons of green greenhouse gases! For environmentalists in rich countries, that's a cause for alarm. For the Kamchibekova clan in Talas, Kyrgyzstan, it's a reason to cheer.

Before, the Kamchibekova clan would burn dried sheep dung to stay warm during the brutal Kyrgyz winter. As you might have guessed, dehydrated sheep poo makes for a poor fuel. Global warming alarmists call coal “dirty,” but dung is the dirtiest. Besides being cleaner, coal also contains much more energy than an equivalent amount of dung, so it's more efficient.

Environmentalists in rich countries excoriate coal as an evil. At this very moment, Greenpeace-niks are assembling a giant model of the earth in rural Poland, as a focal point for opposition to the expansion of coal in Poland and the world.

For hundreds of millions of the world's poor, however, coal is cleaner and more energy efficient than the alternative. This is one of the many inconvenient truths that environmentalists ignore in their dogged pursuit of a static global ecosystem.

The enviros say they want to save the planet. But what about the people that live on the planet now?

Bismarck once said that the whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier. I riff on that when I say that the rainforests, or blue whales or any other green grail isn't worth the bones of a single human being. Humans first.