11 January 2007

No-fly zone?

Now that we've had two sub-freezing days in a row, I've been thinking about how nice it would be to take a vacation somewhere warm. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Macy's has changed their windows from Christmas to bikinis overnight.

But to get anywhere warm, I'd have to fly. I'm not a big flier. Last year, I took one plane trip, to Denver to see my college roommate. The year before, I went to Puerto Rico in February. The year before that was London. In the years before that, I flew frequently for work as well as vacation, to Africa, to L.A., to Pittsburgh. That last was most definitely for work, though I'm sure Pittsburgh has charms that were hidden from me.

Last summer, the Bishop of London called air travel sinful and urged people not to fly for any other than emergency reasons. A recent estimate by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in Manchester estimated that 7% of Britain's pollution is caused by airplane emissions (in the United States, it's closer to 10%), which may not seem that high, but there's evidence that high-altitude emissions affect climate change differently from those made on the ground, and forecasts for air travel in Europe are that it will increase substantially in the next 20 years.

How do you define an emergency? Attending your mother's funeral? Checking into the Mayo Clinic for heart surgery? Lying on the beach in the Caribbean for a week to reduce your stress to the point where you won't kill your boss? I'm fortunate that I don't have to travel for work anymore -- it's exhausting and disorienting after a while -- but if any one of the people in my company who do suddenly announced they weren't going to fly anymore, his job would be in immediate jeopardy.

I want to go back to Africa. I haven't been to Italy since I was in college and every time I watch A Room with a View or The Godfather, I have to restrain myself from booking a flight immediately. I've long wanted to visit New Orleans, and it seems like right now would be the ideal time: they need the tourist income, and after a few more bad hurricane seasons, it might be impossible to visit ever again.

I can buy carbon offsets to ease my conscience a bit, but how directly they mitigate the climate effects of flying is debatable. I imagine my finances won't allow for more than one far-flung trip a year in any event. I'm not ready to give up flying altogether. But I do think it's worth thinking about and maybe taking a closer look at the Amtrak routes.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Stacy Horn said...

Hey, I really enjoyed taking a trin to New Orleans, although it gets a little smelly.

8:32 AM  

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