Back when I was a college student slumming around Washington DC as an intern for a semester, one of the sights to take in was a digital odometer-like “population clock” about five stories up on the corner of a building at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and N Street. You could sit and watch the numbers roll up rapidly and inexorably, and this was supposed to have some kind of dramatic, road-to-Damascus effect on viewers I suppose. I thought it was sponsored by the Worldwatch Institute, but their president, Chris Flavin, told me more recently that it wasn’t them. So I misremembered; it was probably the World Population Handwringers Association, the Paul Ehrlich Fanboy Club, or, my favorite, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (suggested motto: You First), or some such. You can still find many online equivalents of the population odometer here and there.
One thing that you can’t misremember is how the population bomb theme dominated progressive and green thought back in the 1970s—back when some folks still thought a new ice age was our most significant climate threat.
So imagine my delight when I stepped out of Penn Station in New York on Thursday to see the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Clock up on the side of a building on the next corner. Same old tactic: run a digital counter, and expect people to say, “Huh—guess I’ll go out and sell my SUV right away.” (The short video below shows the clock in operation, though it looks funny because of the shutter speed of a cell phone camera.)
Yes, of course I’m curious what the carbon footprint of an electronic display like this is, but we can relax—I’m sure the sponsor is buying carbon offsets from Al Gore. And it looks like the sponsor can well afford it: the clock is sponsored by Deutsche Bank. If you click on the URL mentioned on the display. www.know-the-number.com, you will be directed to the site of the Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisers. Isn’t it enough that German banks are on the hook for Greece and the rest of the wobbly Eurozone? Do they have to put themselves on the hook for the fate of humanity, too?
I’m tempted to say they ought to take on board that large wooden horse the Greeks have sent in appreciation for the German bailout, but instead Deutsche Bank gets this week’s coveted Power Line Green Weenie Award.