Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Why I'm Flying to America

I suppose I better explain myself. I'm going to the USA tomorrow, which means I'm going to be flying. Yes, an environmental activist is going to be flying. Why? To visit my girlfriend in Boston and tie in a trip to New York, a city I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember.

See, I'm a music fan - a big music fan - much of the music I listen to originates or has its roots in the USA. For many a year I've planned to visit the States, to take in the sights and sounds of Detroit, Chicago, New York and New Orleans. Consider it a personal pilgrimage to the heartland of an important part of my life. As far as I'm concerned this is a flight I was always going to make. Maybe not now, but definitely at some point in my lifetime.

Undoubtedly I believe flying needs to be stemmed before it snowballs beyond the 2% of emissions it's currently responsible for (and reduced beyond that). Whilst I don't believe anybody has the right to fly, nor do I believe it should be banned either. Many people have good reasons to, such as those who have close family in far flung places. Can we really deny them occasional flights to see loved ones? The flights we should be taking action against are those short haul and domestic flights, private jets and empty trans-atlantic flights. Bankers who cross the Atlantic ten times a year when they could do business via videolink. People who take three or four European city breaks a year. The 'planes bringing strawberries from Egypt to the UK in the middle of December.

Hand-in-hand with this though, of course, is the need to improve culture and infrastructure elsewhere. If we want to turn people away from flying between London and Edinburgh then we need better rail links while aviation stops avoiding the massive tax breaks that make it so cheap to fly. Similarly, attitudes need to change, so that we no longer consume out of season fruit from other continents or think it perfectly acceptable to rack up a massive annual carbon bill by flying to every corner of Europe. Perhaps we even need a carbon tax or rationing of airmiles, who knows..

This isn't going to be a frequent thing. I continue to make strides to reduce my carbon footprint elsewhere and when it comes to any future long distance travel I'll be more than happy to take the coach or train as I did to Copenhagen. I want (being the operative word, rather than need) to see much of the world and can do so by means other than flying should I decide to embark on these journies. But these very few trips that will almost certainly not be repeated nor regular unfortunately mean stepping on board that 'plane.

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