Friday, 30 March 2007

Air Travel and CO2

I have to confess a guilty secret. I travel by low budget airlines from time to time. Both for WLT work, and for pleasure. I have been asked on many occasions how I justify this and these are my justifications.

As far as the WLT is concerned, I only make journeys that are an important part of either our project development or are important for fundraising. And as a charity we have a legal duty to not waste donors money, hence using low cost airlines from time to time.

As a private individual, my personal carbon footprint is all that I will leave on this planet. If this was true of the other 60 million humans living in Britain today, the hopes for the future would be considerably brighter. But unfortunately, the majority choose to reproduce themselves, which unless every couple restricted themselves to only one or two offspring, will lead to a continuing trail of carbon footprints marching into the far horizon of the future. Over 30 years ago I decided that the human population was the biggest threat to the planet -- and it's a far bigger threat now. I certainly try and 'do my bit' for the environment, but quite honestly I am often very cynical about this. Switching of a few lights, using a slightly more fuel efficient car, cycling, recycling paper is all small fry compared to the problems being engendered by rising human populations and rising standards of living. There is a finite amount of oil, but an almost infinite demand for it. The dynamic Asian tiger economies are going to take every bit of energy the West does not want. Even North Korea has agreed to close down its nuclear power, if the rest of the world will supply it with (presumably) fossil energy. Meanwhile in Britain, power companies are building turbines growing biofuels and other sources of so-called renewable energy as fast as they can -- not so much to replace fossil fuels, but to ensure they can keep up with increasing demands for energy.

While I totally disagree with the whining and whingeing of Ryan Air about tax increases, there is no evidence it will actually benefit the environment. It is time everyone faced up to the fact that we in the 'developed' world are all paying far too little in taxes, if we want to live in a world that is not going to be destroyed by competition to produce the cheapest possible food and the cheapest possible commodities. We need to expect to be taxed to improve the quality of life, and environmental protection. But we also need to face the very real threat that our expanding populations, and our ever increasing consumerism, pose.

So what can we do?
A] Camapaign for politicians to take the human population issue seriously.I hope that readers of this blog, many of whom are involved with population issues will provide some links, for a new page we are considering for our website, and link to us.
B] Save as much of the planet for the future as possible. And remember 20% of carbon emissions come from deforestation. And that's where the WLT comes in.

The World Land Trust may be small, but we are doing something. If everyone who could afford to did what our supporters have already done, the planet might be a lot better off in the future.

1 comment:

  1. My "secret" is probably worse. I lecture on cruise ships visiting the Antarctic Peninsula. This entails an expensive flight to Ushuaia in southern Argentina and then passage in a large ship. A couple of hundred passengers (and us staff) subsist (no, gorge) on food brought to Ushuaia from around the world: Texas corn-fed cattle, exotic fruits that I never see at home etc. Holidays at Clacton or even Palm Beach would be far more carbon-friendly, but the cruise industry and its critics are worried about our disturbing the penguins and squashing delicate mosses. In fact our impact on Antarctica barely registers. But what effect are we having on the rest of the world?

    However, like John, I resolutely decided not to breed to do my bit for overpopulation. (The second reason is that I would not make a good father. I have enough trouble being responsible for myself let alone anyone dependent on me.)

    Taxes on air travel and SUVs have the mereit in that they are targeting people who can afford to pay. Except for farmers who actually need 4x4s and are already have a hard time making ends meet.