So people get pretty upset, in turns out, when you suggest that to live environmentally might mean fewer air trips to the Bahamas. “What’s the point of saving the world if I can’t see it?” someone commented yesterday. Oh boy. That roused some other people.
I get both sides of the argument, so it’s hard for me to make forever rules for myself about this. It’s been put this way: that if any of us expends more carbon than the planet could sustain for everyone, then we are taking more than our fair share. That’s a hard one to swallow, since the planet couldn’t actually sustain everyone flying more than about once every ten years or so.
But thinking it through, if I’m interested in travel and I want to be enviro, there is this option: fly to Europe and then travel south overland and east and west, too, and basically zig zag around and work my way to China and and India and into the Himalayas and stay away for a couple of years until I’m done. Then fly home. In other words, get my whole life’s travel done with only one flight (see No Impact readers Phillipe and Heather’s thoughts on this too).
Won’t work, you say? Have to get to the office? Right. Me, too. And the reason is that we are all part of larger systems and those larger systems sometimes forces us into the false screw-the-planet-I-want-to-be-abundant versus I-care-so-I’ll-deal-with-ascetism dichotomy. In other words, the choices, as defined by the systems, are bogus.
Why does it have to be a choice between the supermarket and local food? Why is it a choice between staying at home like a hermit or driving the car? Where are the damn trains? Why also are we faced with having to work so hard just so that we can buy the same disposable products over and over again?
The systems are poorly designed. Well, not so much designed as hodgepodged together. So what I want to say here is that, as important as my individual choices are, I also need to get active in changing the system. I need to be a big mouth.
I (meaning we, but you know how I hate to preach) need, as Susan Och says, to call for an expanded rail network, for example. I need to call for durable goods. I need, as Shellenberger and Nordhaus say, to campaign for huge federal investment in renewable energy.
As well as our individual choices, we need to fix the systems. All of this takes more than a phone call to our representatives. So the question is, how do we do it?