Better yet, stop traveling altogether.
I know it sounds like heresy, in a world where travel is the new sex, but at the risk of being a party pooper I just have to say this.
When you travel – particularly by air – you are hastening the demise of the planet.
Does that surprise you?
In the past few weeks it seems the world has woken up to the perils of climate change.
In a new report released on Black Friday, the Fourth National Climate Assessment released by the Federal government said:
“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”
It’s those darn greenhouse gas emissions again! You know, the emissions that come from planes, trains and automobiles – virtually any gasoline-powered vehicle.
But nothing burns fossil fuels like airplanes.
According to this calculator at MyClimate.org, a round trip from Vancouver to Paris will emit 3 tons of CO2 per person. Flying Business Class increases the footprint to 5.7 tons of CO2, and 8.9 tons from First Class.
Back in Economy, to envision what 3 tons of CO2 looks like, imagine your plane leaving a carbon fart the size of a McMansion in your honor.
Multiply that plane fart by the number of people on your flight. Multiply that by 3.6 billion per year and you get the gist of how damaging all our vacations are to the environment.
Damn that science! It always ruins our unsustainable fun!
Believe me, I feel extremely conflicted about calling out air travel as a contributor to climate change.
I write about travel. I serve on the board of the BC Travel Writers Association and I know a lot of people in the travel industry complex. As an Air Force brat I was practically born on an airplane.
But clearly, this is no time to be an airplane enthusiast.
When five percent of carbon and other emissions released into the atmosphere come from airplanes, there’s no way to excuse away the damage air travel is doing to the atmosphere.
According to this IOP Science study, taking two round-trip overseas flights contributes more pollution than driving your car for a year.
Think about that. Two long flights exceeds driving for a year.
Sure, we all need to take flights at some point in our lives. If your job doesn’t force you to fly, your family will.
Business and family are certainly legitimate reasons to travel, although both can be reduced by visiting via online video.
The worst reason to travel is tourism
A hundred years ago, travel was a daringly adventurous pursuit, available to the well heeled and done mostly by train and ship.
Today, tourists board airplanes like they’re hopping a bus, it’s that common.
Worse, tourists are either oblivious or in denial of the environmental consequences of their wanderings.
I hate to say that tourism poses an existential threat to humanity, but yeah. That’s kinda how it is.
If pressed, tourists will use the cultural exposure card to rationalize their travel, as if opening their minds is worth putting 3 tons of carbon in the air per trip.
But look at the state of the world, now lurching severely to the Right. Has the cultural understanding from tourism really led to peace on Earth? I don’t think so.
Let’s face it, tourists travel for selfish reasons. They’re bored and want to be entertained. They’re tired and want to relax on a beach. They’re insecure and want to show off their wealth and good taste.
Or they have social media followings and need to stuff their feeds.
Which brings me to travel blogging
In the previous century, travel writers sold their stories to magazines, got paid for it and went home.
In this century, we have online technology which allows us to post videos, blogs, and images everywhere and endlessly.
The Internet has spawned a whole new form of travel media that allows people to monetize their travels through advertising and promotional considerations.
Travel bloggers are motivated to travel not by their need to express themselves by telling a story, but by a desire to see the world and get paid for it. Always, it’s travel first.
They solicit freebies from hotels, airlines, auto manufacturers and attractions in exchange for exposure to their hundreds of thousands of followers, and sometimes they get them. Sometimes not, as in one laughable case in Ireland, the backlash of which caused the hotel owner to ban all bloggers.
The goal of travel blogging is for bloggers to use their “influence” among their following to entice businesses to underwrite their travel, thereby allowing them to travel yet more.
And, to pollute the planet more.
Travel bloggers, like their print media brethren, are using the power of jealousy and envy to encourage others to travel more, feeding the eight trillion dollar global tourism industry and accelerating climate change through the use of planes, trains, buses and automobiles.
But that’s not all!
Anyone can start travel blogging
Some travel bloggers make a good living off their advertisers and affiliates and position themselves as inspirations to everyone with a regular jobs.
As a side hustle, these successful bloggers often start programs to coach people on how to do what they do, and this coaching is perhaps the most insidious part of this business.
Not only are some travel bloggers wasting the world’s atmosphere for their own selfish pursuits, they are encouraging more people to quit their jobs and travel the world, just like them, thereby creating a self-perpetuating cycle of climate destruction.
It’s like a drug addict encouraging drug use to children, except that the travel drug affects the whole world.
Worse yet, many of those newly minted bloggers will continue the cycle of preaching the joys of travel blogging through their own coaching platforms. It’s a kind of travel media Ponzi scheme.
The result is yet more people jetting around the world in the pursuit of that perfect Instagram photo.
A study last year by Expedia revealed that two-thirds of travellers aged 18-34 booked trips based on how they thought a location would play on their Instagram account.
There is no time in the history of the world that is more wrong to start travel blogging than right now.
Climate change is real and we are already experiencing the effects through super storms, firenados, rising seawater, endless drought and wildlife extinction. If the situation gets worse, we’ll see more wars, less food safety, fewer clean water sources, and a serious threat to the world’s economy.
Sure, you can travel all you want now – so you can look forward to one day telling your dehydrated, malnourished grandchildren what truffles once tasted like back in 2018.
According to the IOP Science study, the top thing individuals can do to stop climate change – after procreating less – is to reduce our use of fossil-fuels.
Not only must we cut back our travel, we must encourage others to skip trips as well.
A recent article in Wired magazine postulates how individual action expands into real social change:
“We don’t recommend taking personal actions like limiting plane rides, eating less meat, or investing in solar energy because all of these small tweaks will build up to enough carbon savings (though it could help). We do so because people taking action in their personal lives is actually one of the best ways to get to a society that implements the policy-level change that is truly needed. Research on social behavior suggests lifestyle change can build momentum for systemic change…People don’t spring into action just because they see smoke; they spring into action because they see others rushing in with water. The same principle applies to personal actions on climate change.”
So even if you think cancelling your exotic vacation won’t stop climate change, consider that when enough people cut back their air travel they will send a signal to governments and the travel industrial complex to make systemic changes in favour of the environment.
Right now, travel bloggers are doing the exact opposite by encouraging people to travel more.
Changing from Home
You might say, we know you travel, Mari. Shouldn’t change start with you?
It’s true, I do fly, but for the past three years my flights have been all about family and business.
We haven’t left North America since we went to Israel in 2016, impelled to see hubby’s 87-year old uncle once last time.
We visit my 95-year old mom twice a year in Southern California and Michigan, yet recently we’ve incorporated a somewhat more sustainable method of travel in those trips – the humble train.
Oh, and we flew to a wedding in Winnipeg. Hey, weddings happen.
But I’m not jetting off to any more WordCamps. I believe that to spare the air, conferences should hire local speakers.
Nor do I attend Wine Bloggers Conferences anymore. I can get drunk at home.
Any other travel we take in 2019 will be driving within our beautiful province of British Columbia, 99.9% of which we have not yet seen.
So that’s my travel schedule and I’m still looking for ways to cut back.
The greatest irony about travel blogging is that climate change – induced by transportation-related carbon emissions – is now threatening the destinations people want to visit. The Fourth National Climate Assessment states:
“Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.”
Anyone who cares about life on earth should search their soul, study the science, and cancel any air travel plans that are not completely necessary to their jobs or families. By skipping that next exotic vacation, we can help to spare the air for future generations.
Travel bloggers can always find other things to blog about, but living on planet Earth is a one-time opportunity. Let’s not screw it up.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments.