Sunday, January 01, 2006

Travelling hopefully

I have written the following as a draft and edited it twice and still I'm not satisfied. Basically that's because it's unresolved in my mind. So what to do? Publish and be damned! Or publish and hope that comments may illuminate the modern-day dilemma of a supposed Green who still wants to venture "down the road apiece".

"I have to admit it: I am a travel junkie.
Travelling does for me in terms of stimulation and mental opening up what little else can. But these days it is so hard to travel with an easy conscience. In particular, any green analysis of the impact of air transport on the build-up of greenhouse gases is going to be damning of its use, particularly by mere travellers for leisure.

Is it just special pleading for me to argue that the plane will fly whether I am on it or not? (It is true, whereas my car won't go anywhere unless I'm in it, driving it - or my fan heater won't chuck out heat from electricity unless I turn it on.) Or if I argue that the actions or self-restraint of an individual are less than a drop in the ocean - or like pissing into the wind? What is needed is action with widespread effect, such as international agreements (say within the European Community) to put a progressive tax on aircraft fuel with the takings spent on alternative energy development or other green causes. What is needed most of all is to get the US on side: without action there, my donning of a hair-shirt would be just so much self-righteous masochism.

You see, I've worn the hair-shirt before - through the 1970s when very few seemed to be awake to the threats to the global environment. I grew my veg behind my house - and wheat for my chickens in the front! - and cycled most everywhere: I shunned consumerism (and still largely do). Generally, I was regarded then as just some harmless freak. It didn't seem to impress women, anyhow! Now I'm in my sixties I am less convinced by the self-flagellating solo gesture and perhaps I am also more pessimistic about the chances of halting global warming. In those distant hippy days, I used to say, "Many a true word spoken in paranoia": nowadays it seems more true than ever. Paranoia says that Big Oil and the rest will stop effective action stateside or world-wide. The Gulf Stream will switch off and Western Europe will freeze. Greenland Ice and later the Antarctic Polar Cap will melt. Seas will be swollen - with the melt water and much more still by expansion through heating - and flood most of the major conurbations and much of the best arable land. And stuff we can't even begin to predict. "Civilisation" will be devastated.

So what am I saying? It's mighty hard to go travelling with a clear conscience, especially by air. But are we then to revert to a wartime inquiry: "Is your journey really necessary?". To that I am inclined, like King Lear, to respond:"Oh reason not the need! ... Allow not nature more than nature needs, man's life is cheap as beast's" What perhaps it comes down to is that we each take up our position along a continuum between the minimum possible ecological impact and a carefree consumerism that knows no bounds. And what will I do? No doubt I will fly sometimes (watch this space!) but I will see what offsetting is possible by going to and (formerly known as Future Forests).

For more disturbing reading, I go to No doubt, I'll be reading and thinking some more. Any comments?"


Blogger pangapilot said...

Me again. Now I'm on the road I wonder why I agonised so much over empty tokenism peddled by guilt-trippers. Faced by the immensity of India and its population/pollution - and China much more so - such concerns seem so miniscule. Things have to change if "our" civilisation is to survive, that's for sure, but the only relevant action has to be on a mass scale and from where I'm sitting I don't know what or how.

Wed Feb 01, 04:07:00 am GMT  

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