“The glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, Miami Beach is slowly going under.
Quick, says a voice in your head, go see them before they disappear! You are evil, says another voice. For you are hastening their destruction.
To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times. Something that seemed like pure escape and adventure has become double-edged, harmful, the epitome of selfish consumption. Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
And yet we fly more and more.
The number of airline passengers worldwide has more than doubled since 2003, and unlike with some other pollution sources, there’s not a ton that can be done right now to make flying significantly greener — electrified jets are not coming to an airport near you anytime soon.
Still, we wonder: How much is that one vacation really hurting anyone, or anything?
It is hard to think about climate change in relation to our own behavior. We are small, our effects are microscopically incremental and we mean no harm. The effects of climate change are inconceivably enormous and awful — and for the most part still unrealized. You can’t see the face of the unnamed future person whose coastal village you will have helped submerge.”
David Lindsay: Amazing article, thank you Andy Newman. I loved the link at the end to the Openthefuture.com website, and the article there about the carbon footprint of a single cheeseburger, or the 50 to 150 cheeseburgers most Americans eats every year.
I liked the comments, about getting involved in politics and personal changes. I have upped my contributions to climate change hawks running for office, and added 46 solar panels to the roof of my house. We have upgraded our two gasoline autos to one electric Nissan Leaf and one Toyota Prius plug in hybrid. We are now converting the gas systems in the house with electric ones. We replaced the old gas fired hot water heater with a heat pump electric water heater, and have installed 4 ductless splits, electric condenser heat pump room heaters and air conditioners by LG.
I remain as guilty as the rest, with my use of occasional air travel, which I will have to examine.
Here is one of many comments I liked:
Yes we should, and that is what my wife and I have done for the last 8 – 10 years when we quit flying. I’m in my late 60’s and everyone I know bridles at the mention of limiting travel. They feel they worked most of their life and this is their time to travel and see the world. I felt that way too until I learned about habitat loss, ocean pollution and climate change. My wife and I greatly limit our consumption due to the impact producing those goods has on the environment. We live by Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle. Our friends consider us anomalies, and our lives completely unreasonable. We won’t limit climate change significantly any other way. Renewables and electric cars are not nearly enough.