What actually happens in the minds of rabbits in the headlights?
We all know the answer. Faced with something very big and very scary that we don’t understand, our brains overload. There’s just too much to take in. So we do nothing.
In fact the rabbit-in-the-headlights metaphor is unfair. In my experience, after at most a tiny moment of hesitation, actual rabbits in actual headlights run for their lives. Often, annoyingly, straight down the road ahead.
What they certainly don’t do is sit staring at the approaching headlights for nearly three decades, as we humans have with the issue of climate change since the UN Climate summit in Rio in 1992.
Story Inc started up a few years after that, in the late 1990s, and a couple of years later we started working overseas. Ever since, a reasonable chunk of our work has always been international, and within New Zealand too we’ve notched up air miles flying as far as Riverton and Kaitaia. Meanwhile with the rest of the species we have been watching those headlights get closer…
Last year we finally started consistently “offsetting” our flights, via an organisation called Ekos that invests in conservation projects in New Zealand and around the Pacific. The idea is to either restore ecosystems to capture carbon, or to pay the owners to conserve land which would otherwise be logged or developed.
Like everything else on this issue, carbon offsetting is complicated and controversial. Some say it’s the equivalent of giving yourself permission to keep on littering because you have paid someone else to pick up litter elsewhere. The real answer, they say, is simply not to litter in the first place.
That sounds like common sense. But it would mean, in our case, not to fly. And while we can make efforts to fly less when video conferencing will do the trick, not flying at all is not really an option if we want to keep going as a business. So we offset. At the end of last year we received our first of what will doubtless be many Ekos bills: $306 for 10.92 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions (including radiative forcing), for four return flights to Singapore.
Is it enough? Is it effective? Is it the right way to go about this? We don’t know for sure. We’re certainly not expecting congratulatory high-fives for doing this nearly three decades after Rio, nor for the other more down-home steps we are taking - things like a worm farm for office waste, and more methodical recycling.
But it is at least a start for us to engage with the issue as a small company; an acknowledgement that we can’t just keep saying this is all someone else’s problem; a tiny bunny hop, hopefully in the right direction.