It's not that my carbon footprint is bigger than yours, it's just that I have more of them.
I mention that by way of confession.
My name is Bob. I am a polluter.
Specifically, I am a producer of greenhouse gases. And I'm not talking about the stuff from baked beans.
No, I'm talking about the big one. About carbon dioxide. As it turns out, I – and people like me – am turning out more than my fair share.
In an act of pure selfishness so emblematic of American overconsumption of natural resources, I puff out carbon dioxide like it's going out of style, and I do it for no other reason than my own amusement.
Roughly calculated, I produce five times the carbon dioxide of a Native Alaskan and 10 times the carbon dioxide of the average Amazon tribesman. I personally have been responsible for the loss of two low-lying Pacific Islands, the death of several emperor penguin chicks and a reduction in the arctic ice cap of some .05 percent.
It may not seem like much, but when the other people like me are included, we're a major problem.
A problem that must be fixed.
Because if it's not, people like me are going to destroy the globe. If we are not restrained, if our damage to the biosphere isn't limited, we will be endangering the planet – including the Third World.
What is my offense?
I exercise. Specifically, I run.
With no concern for the atmosphere or Katrina victims in FEMA trailers, I exercise almost every day. Sometimes for a very long time.
And each breath I take is a knife in the back of Mother Earth. Actually, each breath I exhale is a knife in the back of Mother Earth.
Sure, everybody breathes, I think. But people like me, we breathe a lot more than most people. Why? Because we're Americans and we feel entitled. Are we supposed to be sharing the atmosphere with others? Sure, I guess. But if we get to it first, well, tough luck for them.
Here are the facts. Each time I exhale with my average-sized lungs, I let loose with .037 grams of climate-destroying carbon dioxide.
Each and every time.
Day in and day out.
My attitude about air: Screw you, I got mine.
Where it gets obscene is when I exercise.
Normally, people breathe about 12 times a minute. Suckers. People like me, when we exercise, we breathe closer to 40 times a minute.
We huff and puff.
We're the SUVs of breathers.
We just suck air and spew carbon dioxide. When we breathe, if you listen carefully, you can hear the ice sheet crack.
We exercisers breathe as much as three people -- underprivileged people from places with funny names. And we put out three times as much carbon dioxide.
And we often do it in groups.
Take Saturday morning, for example. A couple of hundred of us are going to get together and run a 5k. That's roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide as a coal-fired power plant. Next month, I'm running a marathon. A whole lot more people, a whole lot more miles.
Twenty-six point two miles of filthy American CO2. The only upside is that most of it will be minty fresh, as opposed to the stuff they exhale in those fish-eating countries.
The problem is, there are millions of us. Some run, some play racquetball, some lift weights. All overtax the environment with our hyperproduction of carbon dioxide.
So what should the U.N. do?
How can this devastation of the earth and its atmosphere be stopped?
The first step is a step tax, a carbon fee for profligate breathers. Maybe we could hook people up to pedometers and send out bills to those who walk around too much.
Maybe we could put a carbon tax on running shoes and
jogger bras. Possibly we could make the people who organize races and softball leagues impose an extra entry fee to purchase carbon credits or to pay for carbon sequestration.
If there isn't quick improvement, running could be outlawed and sports could be virtualized. We've got to tax away bad behavior and insentivize good behavior.
Punish those who exercise, reward those who don't.
Maybe jock-itch cremes could be targeted.
Even pornography, if it leads to heavy breathing.
Or maybe it's time for the government to get up off its backside and get us back on our backside. Maybe it's time to get tough with people who care so little about the environment as to exercise.
Maybe the government could use its expertise in getting people to do nothing – as illustrated by its massive workforce and welfare rolls – to get the American people to sit down and take a load off the atmosphere.
If this government cared about the environment, there would be tax credits for flat-screen TVs and a sin tax on health-club dues. If we were serious about fighting global warming, we would make sure that everyone who wanted an X-Box 360 had one.
Every American has a constitutional right to a couch and a remote control.
But no American has a right to more than his share of carbon dioxide offloading.
That's why I'm wrong. Because I breathe. In AND out. I'm killing nature.
I'm the ugly, panting, American.
Stamp out exercise now, before it kills us all.