In his post Out of Context Observation: The Travel Ethic, Thomas notes, in the context of “democratization of business travel due to low costs,” that “we’re starting to see the extreme liability air travel has compared to other travel forms in terms of global warming.”
Having been back and forth to Europe three times this year, something that it tells me here, saw me responsible for more than 3.78 Tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, this is something I’m painfully aware of.
It’s hard to be an advocate for more world travel and an advocate for climate crisis action at the same time, especially where you’re a Europhile like me who looks across the Atlantic for cultural, culinary and aesthetic sustenance.
One of the foundations upon which our mostly successful adoption of life here on Prince Edward Island is based on is the requirement that we be able to get off the Island on a regular basis. This doesn’t imply that the Island isn’t a great place to live, simply that our need for constant stimulation with the new and different can’t be properly fed here.
And so the current working model is “PEI as a wonderful home base, with frequent trips out into the world for what we can’t get here.”
While that’s a great plan in theory, it runs at cross-purposes to dealing with the carbon dioxide problem: all the supposed good I do by parking the car 99% of the time and walking, riding my bike, and taking the bus around town is rendered moot by my itchy feet.
Neither of two obvious ways of mitigating this conflict — trying to remake PEI in the image of elsewhere, or moving elsewhere and trying to remake it in the image of PEI — seem particularly achievable. Or rational.
I’m not sure where this leaves us.
In the meantime, this Sunday’s edition of The Observer contains a compelling article titled The Great Green Rip-off? in its travel section:
It’s travel’s biggest bargain — pay someone to plant a couple of trees and you can keep flying with a clear conscience. But where exactly does the money go, and will it really save the planet?
What their research uncovers suggests that the “travel, but plant trees to make it okay” model isn’t working as we think it is. Indeed from what else I’ve read on this notion, it seems that the very idea of trying to “offset” carbon emissions by “making it up” somewhere else isn’t sustainable, and that the ultimate solution lies in absolute reductions.
The Observer, and its sister paper The Guardian, have been doing some excellent reporting this year on the environmental impacts of travel, starting with What is the real price of cheap air travel? in January. In the world of $398 tickets to London from Halifax, and almost “free” travel around Europe, this is something we should all be reading more about.