There is a website you can use to work out your carbon footprint and ‘earth overshoot day’, the date by which, if everyone lived like you, the earth would run out of renewable resources. Or something. It’s complicated. It’s also not helpful.
I live very happily in a cottage on the edge of the Trossachs. My nearest livable town is twenty minutes away by car. There are small towns and villages near me that I can pop to to re-fuel my car or pick up dinner at a supermarket, but these are expensive options and I usually endeavour to up petrol and hummus supplies while I’m in town for another reason.
I combine errands, often meeting other mums to go for a walk in the park on a sunny day, or popping in to the charity shops and library. I rarely drive to town, though it’s only twenty minutes away, without a list of tasks to accomplish.
So when a website tells me I need to take public transport more, it feels disingenuous. It feels like someone living in London, or another big city, pretending that everyone across the world has the same access to supermarkets, doctors’ clinics, sports centres, soft play facilities, libraries. The same access to a range of superb public transport and cycle lanes.
We don’t. There is a bus between my village and the town that takes around half an hour, but only goes six times a day. This means it is not fit for purpose. How would I get a bus with the pram, pick up all my shopping, run my other errands, and manage to get back without spending my entire day on the task? And that’s just me.
While writing this, I asked First, the bus provider, where the timetable was for my village to Stirling. It turns out that the timetable had changed from today, Monday 21st October. While I can now get a bus direct to Glasgow, it will take two hours. I can’t imagine a day in which I would want to spend four hours on a bus, instead of one and a half hours driving.
I also, and this is shocking, don’t want to go to Glasgow. I want to be able to get in and out of Stirling, or even Callander, after 6pm. I want to meet friends for dinner and not have to take the car, I want to go to the cinema, I want to go to evening yoga classes. I want to be able to get to my doctor, in Doune. There is no public transport option between my village and my doctor’s clinic.
I’d love to cycle, I really would. Maybe not every time, but it is around ten miles from my house to the town centre. To me, that is the perfect distance if I were to have a night off of childcare duties and meet friends, or if I wanted to take my baby in on a sunny day. However, the route is along a busy, narrow road, with a speed limit of 60. I have cycled it once or twice and arrived at my destination shaking and in tears each time.
Websites that calculate your carbon footprint and don’t take rural living into account are, therefore, almost worthless. We can’t measure everyone’s input by the same yardstick, it just isn’t fair.
Around 900,000 people in Scotland live rurally. We need better public transport and cycling routes. We need public transport to be safe, realistic, and cost effective. Until that happens, I can’t imagine any carbon calculation in the world making a bit of difference.