Infidelity a Problem? Offset Your Cheating Online

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A Web site is offering people the chance to offset their infidelity by paying random strangers to remain faithful in a satirical bid to highlight its view of carbon offsetting as an "inadequate" and "misguided" response to climate change.

Cheatneutral began as a joke amongst three friends--Beth Stratford, Alex Randall and Christian Hunt - and works in two ways to tame fast females and philanderers.

Users can freely sign up to become a Cheatneutral "project", meaning they agree to remain single or monogamous in order to neutralize the cheating of somebody else. Or they can offset their own cheating by sponsoring a "project" with a one-time $2.21 payment.

Tongue Firmly in Cheek

The site suggests that jealousy and heartbreak are a natural part of modern life, and that no matter how hard we try to reduce the amount we cheat on our partners, it is just not possible to remain faithful.

"That's why we help you neutralize your cheating," the site says. "Your actions are offset by a global network of fidelity developed by us. By paying Cheatneutral, you're funding monogamy-boosting offset projects - we simply invest the money you give us in monogamous, faithful or just plain single people, to encourage them to stay that way."

Beth Stratford said Randall and Hunt came up with the idea one night in a bar.

"All winter we'd been talking about how carbon offsetting is such an inadequate and misguided response to climate change. We realized that launching an infidelity offset service - and then filming the public and media response - would be an entertaining and seductive way to draw people into the debate."

"Reassuringly (for human nature) we've actually had very few people signing up to offset cheating, we're not talking any great sum of money," Stratford said.

Each member of the team works in the environmental sector, but Stratford stresses that Cheatneutral is a project entirely independent of their day jobs.

Randall works for the UK's Centre for Alternative Technology, Hunt for the Public Interest Research Centre, and Stratford is currently working on a feature film about climate change.

The trio's inspiration stems from a belief that the carbon offset industry does more harm than good. They feel that even if the offset market was properly regulated and accountable, the culture of offsets would still present a significant obstacle to effective action in combating climate change.

"Why? Because, very briefly, it presents itself as a way that people can effectively deal with climate change while largely maintaining their levels of energy consumption. It masks the need for dramatic emissions reduction in the West, and instead seems to offer a license to pollute," Stratford said.

The group also believes that the primary beneficiaries of offset schemes are industries whose profit margins depend on delaying the transition to a low-carbon economy for as long as possible.

"From flights, to four-wheel drives, to petrol itself, carbon offsets provide a false legitimacy to some of the most inherently unsustainable products and services on the market," Stratford said.

Therefore Cheatneutral, as the site proclaims, "tries to make it seem acceptable to cheat on your partner in the same way carbon offsetting tries to make it acceptable to carry on emitting excess carbon. Having Cheatneutral's services could actually encourage you to cheat more. If the carbon offsetters persuade you that it is possible to offset your emissions, you will carry on emitting excess carbon rather than think about reducing your emissions".

While the site has attracted plenty of attention, not everyone seems to get the joke.

Stratford revealed that several North American radio show hosts showed interest in cheat offsetting as a serious method of reducing levels of heartbreak in the atmosphere.

"We also had a phone-call from Loving Links -- a 'major resource for extra marital affairs' - who wanted us to get into bed with them, so to speak, presumably to provide a built-in offsetting service for their philanderers," she said.

But Stratford said the group has also engaged in constructive dialogue with politicians, spokesmen for the offset industry, as well as "enlightened ex-offsetters".

This story, "Infidelity a Problem? Offset Your Cheating Online" was originally published by Computerworld Australia.

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