I recently bought my TerraPass carbon offsets for the year. As I completed my individual carbon footprint estimate, I was struck at both how much lower my total footprint was compared to the US average, and how differently it was distributed. I’ve been flying to the US and Europe quite often since moving to Kenya to keep up with my personal and professional obligations there, so I assumed that my total footprint would be higher than average. Here’s what I’m noticing about each category of emissions.
Because the commercial districts of Nairobi are very compact, I rarely take trips more than 4 or 5 miles from my house. I drive a relatively fuel-efficient motorcycle if I’m on my own, or take a taxi if I’m with someone else. My neighborhood is also unusually walkable, so lots of activities like trips to the grocery store or the dentist can be done on foot or by bike.
Taxi travel accounts for most of the “public transit” category, since Nairobi hasn’t got a public bus system or commuter rail. However, I suspect emissions for this category are underestimated, since taxi travel here does frequently entail long periods idling in traffic.
My air travel emissions are still far too high in both relative and absolute terms. This is a tough one, since I’m flying a lot for academic conferences, Mawazo fundraising, and visits to my family and my partner’s. Video calls can partially but not completely substitute for these in-person connections. Not quite sure what to do about this.
Because of Nairobi’s beautiful climate, I don’t have any costs to heat or cool my apartment. The emissions in the “home energy” category come from my fairly low spending on electricity and cooking gas. However, I also think that these are overstated, because the electricity estimate was done with US power generation in mind, and the Kenyan power sector uses 70% renewable resources, compared to only 18% in the US.
Here’s the latest cross-posting from my Africa Update newsletter! We’ve got the paradox of powdered milk in cattle-loving Somalia, the national airline of Chad, challenges of urban planning in Kenya, free African documentaries online, and more.
Arts and culture: A Beninese artist planted a copy of a 19th century royal throne at an archaeological dig to protest the fact that the original throne is held at a museum in France. A dozen authors from the Middle East and Africa who were invited to the Edinburgh International Book Festival had their visas denied for unclear reasons. AfriDocs has a number of African documentaries available to watch online for free. Check out the online resources for teaching African decolonization at the National History Center.
Enthusiasm for universal basic income is spreading, with new pilot projects recently announced in Scotland and Finland. An interesting argument for the positive effects of UBI is that it already exists for the 1% in the form of capital income.