Thursday, May 7, 2009

Air travel -- the new smoking

My mother likes to watch classic movies on TV. She says it's easy to tell the era in which a movie was made. In the old movies, everyone smoked, and no one had sex. In new movies, everyone has sex, and no one smokes.

I take some comfort from that when I despair over the environment. People in the western world used to think of smoking as a sophisticated activity, but they no longer do. Few of my friends smoke and, of those who do, most would love to give it up. They carry on smoking because, by their own admission, they are addicted to nicotine.

I am hopeful that, over time, cultural attitudes towards ecologically devastating activities will shift too. I am feeling guilty because I'll soon be flying from Canada to Southern Africa to participate in a family reunion to celebrate my mother's eightieth birthday.

The good news is that I'm feeling uncomfortable. It's a sign that I have some awareness of the harmful effects of air travel on the environment. Carbon emissions from jet aircraft are staggering. A few years ago, I wouldn't have given the environmental implications of this trip a second thought.

Now I am re-thinking destinations I had wanted to visit in future and how I will reach them. I feel much more inclined to stay closer to my (admittedly beautiful) home. When I do travel, I will be more inclined to use surface transit.

Something that is helping me to feel connected with distant family members and friends without flying to them is Skype. With webcams connected to our computers, or built into them, we can chat, even if we're separated by thousands of miles. I particularly have enjoyed long conversations with my brother in Australia.

As for our current movies, I will refrain from speculating what it is about them that people of the future will find noteworthy.


EarthDoctor said...

Hi Judy,
I'm a friend of Susana's, and formerly of Nanaimo. Nice to "meet" you!

I know the angst you're feeling, and can only hope that lots more people start feeling it -- and quickly. Two thoughts:

1. How will you "offset" your own long-flight carbon emissions in the next year? Paying for offsets is too easy a way to assuage carbon guilt! But we can bring back the concept of sacrifice (which can feel damn good!), and then make it do double duty by talking about the offsetting sacrifices you're making to others, to plant the seed of this idea in them. (We have to get beyond this idea that we can do anything we like without consequences.)

2. I'm trying to spread the idea of The Hundred Mile Vacation!

Have a great trip.

GreenHeart Education

p.s. Thanks for spreading the idea of Skyping and webcamming to replace "love miles" (as George Monbiot calls them) in the air. Perhaps "love miles" ought to be used to denote the miles we *aren't* travelling because we love our children and grandchildren so much and want to assure them a future!

p.p.s. Thanks also for including my website on your blog. I appreciate it.

EarthDoctor said...

By the way, that's my husband, Peter, not me!

Haven't quite figured out why he always pops up when I leave a message ;-).

Judy Roberts said...

Hi, Julie. It's lovely to have you visit my blog. I have heard a lot about you from Susana. I look forward to meeting you in real life one of these days.