It’s not good fortune on my part that in writing Lindsay’s List I get to be the unhappy bearer of bad news. I take no glee in this role, nor assume any moral superiority. I aim to deliver the facts and don’t necessarily find that easy when the facts stand in such sharp contradiction to prevailing social and cultural norms.
Such is the case when it comes to advising you, dear reader, against ever flying in an airplane again.
Most people don’t want to hear this.
I want mine
If Italy feels like an enticing and affordable vacation, then why not go, even if you live in Alaska or Kuala Lumpur? That’s the accepted cultural view of most anyone with the means to travel. That so many opportunities are available to us to see the world, learn about other cultures first hand, and enjoy the pleasures of distinct localities seems not only acceptable, but downright laudable.
But through the lens of energy use and climate impact, the view is quite the opposite.
Because our culture is one driven by it’s myths about and attachment to the notion of supreme individualism, prohibitions on activities that are destructive to the Vital Commons—to our shared use of and need for clean air and a working atmosphere—read as judgmental and invasive. A non-starter politically and rude socially. These “decisions” are for the individual alone, or so goes the presumption. That’s what makes it difficult to negotiate climate issues or make gains on eco-fairness.
Why is commenting on your trip to Greenland not okay but you despoiling both your atmosphere AND mine perfectly acceptable?
The bottom line is there may never be anything that can be done to force lower energy use and a smaller carbon footprint on anyone. I don’t know that that’s true, but it feels that way, at least for now.
That leaves it up to the individual to either abjure or embrace personal responsibility and self sacrifice on the score of energy use and excessive carbon footprinting, including via flights. For my part I advocate against any further flying. I say get grounded.
Flights, and especially their vapor trails create an aviation multiplier that causes some of the worst emissions out there. Sarah Palin may love that smell, but for the rest of us, it’s the smell of death. Like slow cooking our kids if you really want to get graphic.
A view from the ground
You can still get around via foot, bike, car, and rail…or hot air balloon should it come to that. Vacations and visits at less of a distance can help save you money, hassles and effort while directing your money to local sources rather than those far away.
Switching to a mode of deglobalization not only helps slow energy decline and climate troubles, it also might help mitigate the alienation and atomization many feel as every ordinary family in the industrialized world shifted to long distance family relationships.
Sure, there will long be the need for emergency, medical, diplomatic and military flights. But the age of luxury long-distance travel via airplanes, unsustainable and injurious as it is, may be in its final descent. Your willingness to wave it a bon voyage is part of what will get us there, melancholy though it may feel.
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List