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Environment

Artist Pollutes to Criticize Carbon Offsets

DiscoblogBy Nina BaiDecember 9, 2008 12:40 AM

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Sometimes to make a point, you have to release some greenhouse gas. On September 29, artist Francesca Galeazzi climbed to a pristine spot on the Jakobshavn fiord in Greenland and—to the shock and horror of her fellow travelers—released a 6 kg tank of CO2 gas. "The CO2 came out violently, freezing the air around the nozzle," she wrote on her website. Galeazzi's act of pollution may have been blatant, but it was just a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of carbon emissions each of us produces, and we do so no less consciously. In the U.S., that number is nearly 20 metric tonnes per person per year. Before Galeazzi pulled the stunt, she purchased an equivalent offset from one of the online Gold Standard Carbon Offsetting schemes—demonstrating how many of us justify our bad behavior. Buying carbon offsets seems to be a growing trend among the green-conscious, a form of environmental penance in which you can pay cash to have someone else wipe away your carbon footprint. In a recent interview, Galeazzi explained her criticism of carbon offsets:

Instead of embracing change, we are inventing new mechanisms to greenwash our consciences, in a way. I didn’t want to say that carbon offsetting is bad because I believe it plays a role within our strategy to tackle climate change. But not as a starting point.

Galeazzi was traveling as part of an expedition of artists and scientists organized by Cape Farewell. She kept her performance art piece a secret until the last moment because she wanted to see her fellow travelers' gut reactions. Some were supportive, many were outraged, and one person refused to talk to her afterwards. Related Content: DISCOVER: Carbon Trading: Environmental Godsend or Giant Shell Game? DISCOVER: Counting Carbons DISCOVER: How Big is DISCOVER's Carbon Footprint?

Image: flickr / House of Sims

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