Flying Blindly Towards An Unsustainable Future

“A 90 per cent cut in carbon emissions means the end of distant foreign travel…It means that trans-continental journeys must be made by train… or coach.  These privations affect a tiny proportion of the world’s people.  The reason they seem so harsh is that this tiny proportion almost certainly includes you.  If you fly, you destroy other people’s lives.”   George Monbiot

“Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning”
It will soon be that time of the year when photos of Hawaiian, Cuban and Mexican beaches appear in the newspaper, television and magazine ads tempting us to take that vacation.  Whether you are a Bruce Trail hiker going to Belize to be inspired by nature, a winter trip to Arizonia or on a weekend shopping trip to New York, our seemingly endless need to experience the ‘pleasures and meaning of life’ away from home will whittle away humanity’s future quality of life, let alone starving people now through drought and rising oceans.  Monbiot puts it quite succinctly:”…well meaning people are as capable of destroying the biosphere as the executives of Exxon.”


Mark Ellingham of Rough Guides, said guidebooks “should encourage our readers, and by extension airlines and governments, to treat the issue with the gravity it demands.”
It is a tragedy that Canadian governments have failed to take a leadership role in educating its public so we might have avoided the draconian laws that will meet the next generations. Our government can’t even enforce its own sustainability guidelines.  Auditor General Sheila Fraser said last week,”After a decade, sustainable development strategies are a major disappointment.” Remember, government is only a reflection of our own out-of-sight consumer mentality.
Every time we take a flight now means that a young person is not going to be able to enjoy those same adventures that we had in our twenties and thirties.  Every time you save money by using your air reward miles that make you land and take off several times to your destination compounds the damage that you cause to the planet’s terribly fragile climate balance.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore) the impact of flying is a warming response 2.7 times that of carbon dioxide alone, as a result of the other gases and particles being released.  The United Nations World Tourism Organization reported last month that five percent of all emissions now come from tourism. Venice, Cairo, the small island states, the coral reefs and even our Rocky Mountain destinations can’t take the ‘business as usual’ attitude of the tourist.
Many of us feel we should assuage our guilt for flying by buying carbon offsets from companies that will calculate the number of miles flown to buy into projects such as wind energy or planting trees.  The respected not-for-profit Pembina Institute in Calgary suggests buying wind power from Bullfrog Power, which in itself is great,  but is this not like buying an indulgence in the Middle Ages to “offset” your sins?  For how long can we look in the mirror and not see our North American way of life is totally out of control? Be a responsible world citizen: don’t fly.
“It is clearly feasible for the average adult to deal with his or her responsibility for arresting climate change. It requires some determination and a willingness to step away from some of the most destructive aspects of current culture.  It needs, most importantly, a willingness to reduce travel and, in particular, to all but eliminate air travel.” “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life”  Chris Goodall

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