My bags are packed (well not really, but I’ve made a lot of lists) and I’m ready to go. My first real vacation in six years is coming up and….I’m feeling guilty. Excited, but guilty. I hesitate to calculate how many miles I’ll be flying in the next month, but it’s well over 20,000. And that’s bad for the planet. The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organizations Carbon Emissions calculator says that my share of that trip will spew over 2,000 kilos (4, 550 pounds) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
It gets worse: my flight leaves at 1:00AM, bound for Singapore. Studies show that flights in the tropics are worse for emissions than in temperate zones, and night flights cause more damage than those during the day. Argh.
So should I stay home? Here’s where it gets even more complex. What if I and all the other over-consuming developed-worlders decided not to travel? Damage to the atmosphere would be reduced as airplanes stopped flying. But environmental justice includes the human side: what of the economic effects of tourism? The travel and tourism industry creates millions of relatively safe jobs for people at all levels of education; tourism is an economic lifeline for many developing world countries. Would the environment be saved by those grounded planes? Tourism is the spur to creating national parks and conservation areas in places that would otherwise be exploited for their natural resources. If I don’t visit the jungle, there’s less economic incentive to preserve it, and it’s more likely to be burned down.
Every day we, as members of the Care2 community, make calculations, balance choices, and take action. So I’m going on my trip, but I’ll be travelling consciously, using my guilty conscience as a spur.
Coming up: the search for offsets….
Photo © Stephen Strathdee
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