Why I put in some effort to lower my carbon footprint

I was talking with someone about how Andrea and I have been consciously taking less flights since the pandemic started in order to lower our carbon footprint (Take the Jump suggests a flight under 1500km every 3 years, longer than that every 8 years; heard about this from David Suzuki), and how that probably means always driving to PyCascades (thanks to our EV), flying to PyCon US (or EuroPython depending on things) and the core dev sprints, and that potentially being it for conference travel unless I combine it with a holiday. The person I was chatting with then asked me why I seemed to be willing to sacrifice some happiness from conferences for the planet when my individual carbon footprint is miniscule compared to entire countries who are not seemingly putting in as much effort as I am? I honestly wasn't prepared for that question, so I didn't have a good way to articulate why. But now that I have reflected on it, this blog post records my reasons for putting in at least some effort to lower my carbon footprint at the cost of some happiness for myself.

First, I think every little bit helps. I think of it in terms of a fighting game like Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat: you might survive by a sliver of life, but a win is a win. Since I don't know what the magic tipping point is for the climate crisis to spiral out of control and destroy this planet for human beings, I would rather help keep even a sliver of health on that life bar for the planet instead of looking back on my life on my deathbed and wondering if I should have done more (at my age, I very much expect to make it to 2050 and see how good/bad things look for the rest of the century)?

Second, I want to influence however I can everyone around me who votes to help push politicians to do their work to fight the climate crisis as that's where real gains can be made. This is essentially trickle-up ethics where I am trying to influence those around me, to then influence those around them, and so on and so forth, until politicians realize people care about the environment and they need to make changes to keep their jobs (or lives depending on the political system). This is a bit of a slog as you end up needing to have conversations over years on the climate with the same people, but I have seen changes in folks like my in-laws who  are (unfortunately) the primary generation of folks who bother voting, so getting them to change their minds is important.

Anyway, so that's why I bother doing what I consider my part in lowering my carbon footprint. As I said, I fully realize I could do more, but I am still willing to make some sacrifices to help out as I don't know if my small effort won't have some trickle-on effect that leads to marked improvements. And if we all did a small bit of sacrificing, it can add up in various ways whether its directly in the atmosphere or via ethical views of society.