In 1997 and for the whole of the spring semester I participated in a course on environmental engineering in Lund, Sweden as part of a University Erasmus program.
For me, environmental engineering and the whole environment preservation was something new. The phrase mostly used was sustainable development and I have to confess that only when did Ι leave Lund did the seeds grow in order to cultivate into me an understanding, mentality and culture of what sustainable development (and living) is…
In the last part of one of the courses there was a workshop that all course participants attended (and that we all had organized by ourselves) in Kivik, somewhere in the coast of the Baltic Sea. It was a nice, humble, little resort where for two days we executed our workshop.
All were asked to produce and present an essay- a paper…
During the course of the course in the spring semester, among several examples given to manifest that each and every single action of man (almost every) has a CO2 contribution in the general CO2 emissions in the environment, there was one that particularly drew my attention. An airplane flight (Copenhagen to New York it was quoted), is equivalent to emitting y CO2 kgs in the atmosphere. So, the question that was raised was how many people would be willing to not take the flight and save the planet from w kgs of CO2 emitted in the atmosphere. What if the decision to ‘‘go/not go’’ was based not on simple ”pleasure” criteria, but on more complex ”business” criteria?
So, one of the main questions I raised in my paper and that still begs for an answer and I think that now and in the years to come more than ever will be relevant, is how much each one us would be willing to sacrifice part of our quality of life in order to not jeopardise the future of our planet and make this planet, potentially, a more sustainable place to live both for us and for the future generations.
Of course, this question – this problem – is not so single dimensional and just like our governments have shown extreme intuitiveness in finding tricks to ‘‘buy’’ other countries’ pollution rights – typical for countries of the 3rd world or African countries that in many cases intensively have been kept in poverty – in the same way such solutions could be applied in travel.
Well, by paying for one’s (our) CO2 emissions or by buying somebody else’s rights to emit. Still, the truth of the matter is that a flight will actually contribute to the total CO2 emissions and any other solution is just a sneaky way out and I am sure in the years to come other cunning ways will be found like normalising emissions over GDP, over the area of a country and in any way that will prove to be in favour to us – us being the developed people/countries.
So, coming to the initial question, as we don’t want to loose focus.
Is travelling so unsustainably unfriendly to the environment even under the aspect of a single flight or under other aspects e.g. the hotels towels and bed linen that are being washed every day? And if this is the case, what could be the solution?
One simple solution is to use another means of transport. Ship? Bicycle? What about walking? Well, then, a trip to Australia is not going to be a pleasure trip, but rather a painful ordeal. A torture. Even such a solution would pollute in terms of the plainest reason e.g. the shoes that are required to be bought and how they were manufactured. So what would be the next solution? Not travel? Stay in one’s back yard and just not move an inch from one’s neighborhood!
Well, and this is my contribution to the world, after so much travelling, I have one solution for all the above. And this is exactly the reverse.
‘’Go out and travel!’’
Go where nobody has gone. See places. Taste! Listen! Talk! Hear! Feel!
The gain is immense.
The more we travel the more we get to know the world, the more we get to see the differences and commonalities of people and places and the more we manage to see the world as one thing.
The more we travel, the more we realise that actions in one part of the globe produce side effects in another part of the globe.
The more we travel the more ‘‘sensitive’’ we become about world issues and the environment and the more we try to live in a sustainable way, even though this may jeopardise slightly the progress of our current political and economic systems
If we do manage to live more sustainably, then the gain for the preservation of our planet for the future generations would be priceless, even though we may have ‘’burned’’ and ‘’sent’’ some more CO2 kgs up in the air.