Global Warming and Over-Tourism.

From a recent large scientific report from the National Academy of Sciences:

We grew up in a culture where defacto air travel wasn’t an issue of wealth or privilege (as in the early days), nor littered with idealistic notions & existential questions about whether we should even be traveling.  The question was never “should we be traveling?”, the question was “where can we afford, and when can we go?”. The short of this article is that it isn’t all panic, nor worryingly befuddling.  The weight of the world cannot be worn by a single human.  To settle the stomach, let it be known that a single consumer’s philosophical decision to not travel is not currently going to keep that cruise ship in port, nor limit the planned routes of air traffic.  But, owning the privilege inherent to travel, and respecting the destination, and the difficulties, complexities, and general wear and tear that travel brings might add a dose of empathy to the experience.  Empathy is something desperately needed right now, and being more self-aware of our travel impacts might do well for the infrastructure and people of the destinations we are choosing to love to death.  Personally, I think hyper-local travel is in our collective futures, vs visiting far flung places, and damaging the sky and impacting communities, culture, and history the way we do.
 
However, we humans are a creative lot.  There’s Ion drive propulsion technology in its infancy, so the current move towards electric planes might fall to the wayside, when we develop propulsion that has no moving parts.  Obviously I am not an aviator, but it does seem that humans have been through scores of decades where our bleeding edge innovation is repeatedly bailing out the problems we have caused the planet and ourselves.  But the problems are intensifying, and our ability to keep up is being challenged, daily.  Until then, it would appear that our industry is a partner in the solution through education and stewardship, as we have been in environmental and sustainability practices that have been adopted far more rapidly than other industries.  Hospitality and travel’s ability to have a modicum of regulatory self-awareness is rare in industry, and it’s time to become a transparent part of the solution, vs ignoring the problems.  This is one of those situations where the problem will not resolve itself, and it may be time to address it head-on.
 
If you listen to global warming scientists and climatologists, there’s a sense of urgency with an understanding that it is about individual awareness, but it will certainly take a concerted, global partnership of necessary changes.  Single people won’t be able to do the heavy lifting, while regulations will.  And these regulations, although desperately important, will have significant impacts on our travel and tourism industry, and it’s best to be proactive, and resolve future issues by being involved and planning ahead.

So I hope the conversation isn’t too awkward, but what can our industry do to be part of the solution?  I am not sure carbon credits are the answer, and it’s going to take a marriage of multiple solutions to have significant impact.  Full disclosure, but it is my own self-awareness that asks these questions, while I commute by car and plane for both work and pleasure.  I guess, addressing this is a good enough start to reduce my guilt… “Admitting you have a problem is the first step”.  And, this isn’t just about our long-term impact on the environment, because the immediate impact (well before a planet’s potential death throes) are the obliteration of billions of revenues in our industry.  This is a pragmatic commentary, and not some cynical capitalist stance.  Before the runaway global warming effect truly hobbles the human race, it will have an initial impact on people’s lives, whether around their livelihood and profession, or where they live (due to populations increasingly pushing suburban city planning into fire prone areas). The Wildland-Urban interface is a complex coming of age moment in California alone, to the point of questioning whether desperately needed housing should even be built.  So it’s not just global warming’s effect on the planet, and it’s even more immediate than eventual fires (in this case, fires are a relevant proxy to the greater disasters and impacts of overall global warming, such as rising tides, invasive species altering eco-systems, and the like) creating a loss of life and critically damaging property.  It’s also about the impact on communities, the resources used, the various revenues lost to cities and regions.

All these issues are far more complex than any human brain can map, because it’s not just those immediate resources of labor and water to fight the fires, but the ripple effect of all the peripheral lives impacted, beyond those immediately losing property or dealing with the tragedy of lost lives.  It’s not even just about people who lose homes and become homeless, but also how this impacts the existing homeless, or how the impossibly complex interactions between human influence and our resulting effects on climate and weather.  It’s easy to understand that it’s not just our impact on the environment, but the corollary impact of our planet and our species evolving cooperatively as a superorganism, and we don’t understand this symbiosis in great detail. A new book on the topic was reviewed in a recent New York Times article, about using space as a tool to understand terrestrial climate change here on earth.

“Rather than just continuing to procreate and exploit our capacities and resources on Earth, we should recognize that we and our planet are evolving together. Our planet might be viewed as a single living organism, coined Gaia by the scientist and futurist James Lovelock. We have entered a new geological age, what biologists call the Anthropocene, in which we, Homo sapiensare altering the planet, and our survival depends on understanding this symbiosis. Frank asks: Have other civilizations elsewhere in the universe, evolving through their corresponding Anthropocenes, managed to survive?”

I’ve often thought that it is no longer about climate change, but climate control.  This planet didn’t need us to create an inhospitable environment… the atmosphere during the time of dinosaurs would have been toxic to humans.  And just as our climate is ever-changing, we’re simply in the green zone, right now, to sustain human life.  It’s my estimation that we won’t want to stop climate change, but effectively and absolutely control it, so that the ever evolving atmosphere remains hospitable for human existence.  It’s obvious that those interconnected ripple effects are bigger than travel and tourism, and we’ll need to remain focused on our industry, and the tragic and massive effects that will be seen into the future as a new normal, as these complex, integrated issues gain momentum.

Initially, we’ll be seeing a lot of damning, depressing facts.  Like the fact that air travel is very bad. Like, so bad that WaPo ran a piece suggesting “If you care about the earth, stop flying”.  In fact, it is suggested that a tenth of overall carbon emissions are a direct result of tourism, mostly in relation to air travel.  That demand for more luxury, more experiences, and more travel isn’t going to slow down, so trying to engineer some points that go beyond the normal environmental stewardship and sustainability practices.  Unfortunately, much of this will simply be messaging and creation of awareness.  But how involved will our industry get, when it wholly relies on the transport of these humans to the destination?  As the last linked article states, if we don’t involve ourselves, the decisions will be taken our of our hands:

“Given that tourism is set to grow faster than many other economic sectors, the international community may consider its inclusion in the future in climate commitments, such as the Paris accord, by tying international flights to specific nations,” she said.”

Think of those who have come from all over the world, using commerce and transportation, to stay at hotels or camp sites that were closed while Yosemite Valley was closed in 2017, or the direct and indirect impact that the Napa fires had on the community was immeasurable, with long term tourism and staffing issues for the area.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost due to the fires impacting travel and tourism, in 2017, and the long term impacts are still being felt, as businesses continue to close for a variety of related market issues.  In the greater scope of our environmental problems, it might be a minor and relatively banal, negligible point of a tremendous problem, one might even say it’s not seeing the forest for the trees. But it’s all on fire, so there’s that.

As for consideration of travel impacts, I am as guilty as anyone…. I’ve been to Iceland within the last 4 years. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken in my life.  I’ve also gone to crowded islands and participated in taxing their infrastructure and systems with food, recycling, and trash waste, or passively littered the ocean by enjoying beverages with endless plastic straws.  Just the leftovers alone that we can’t consume would draw an environmentalist’s ire.  So it’s been on my mind, as we watch a dangerous tipping point for our ability to exist on earth, and we selfishly travel in a way that destroys community or taxes the countries or cities with a new strain.

So, the first sea change revelation, for me, was that travel has *not* always existed. Migration has. Exploration has. But travel is a relatively new phenomenon.  Yuval Noah Harari comments on this in his indispensable and vitally important work “Sapiens”:

“most cherished desires of present-day Westerners are shaped by romantic, nationalist, capitalist and humanist myths that have been around for centuries. Friends giving advice often tell each other, ‘Follow your heart.’ But the heart is a double agent that usually takes its instructions from the dominant myths of the day, and the very recommendation to ‘follow your heart’ was implanted in our minds by a combination of nineteenth-century Romantic myths and twentieth-century consumerist myths. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, has marketed Diet Coke around the world under the slogan ‘Diet Coke. Do what feels good.’ Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let’s consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummified, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism. Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’. Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product (a car, new clothes, organic food) or a service (housekeeping, relationship therapy, yoga classes). Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better. 18. The Great Pyramid of Giza. The kind of thing rich people in ancient Egypt did with their money. Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to the infinite ‘market of experiences’, on which the modern tourism industry is founded. The tourism industry does not sell flight tickets and hotel bedrooms. It sells experiences. Paris is not a city, nor India a country – they are both experiences, the consumption of which is supposed to widen our horizons, fulfill our human potential, and make us happier. Consequently, when the relationship between a millionaire and his wife is going through a rocky patch, he takes her on an expensive trip to Paris. The trip is not a reflection of some independent desire, but rather of an ardent belief in the myths of romantic consumerism. A wealthy man in ancient Egypt would never have dreamed of solving a relationship crisis by taking his wife on holiday to Babylon. Instead, he might have built for her the sumptuous tomb she had always wanted. Like the elite of ancient Egypt, most people in most cultures dedicate their lives to building pyramids. Only the names, shapes and sizes of these pyramids change from one culture to the other. They may take the form, for example, of a suburban cottage with a swimming pool and an evergreen lawn, or a gleaming penthouse with an enviable view. Few question the myths that cause us to desire the pyramid in the first place.”
― Yuval Noah HarariSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
What we see now is that the world over, especially younger generations, people are pining for authentic, genuine experiences, and that’s what propels travelers to destinations all over the world… but it’s curious that the internet didn’t open up more of the world, vs highlighting certain places that we are all, collectively, loving to death.  In the Economist, they recently addressed this complexity of over-tourism, and how the governments are positioning themselves to resolve the impacts from too many people in too few places.  A fascinating commentary is how new tourists are *not* finding new, undiscovered places to visit, a belief that was fed by the idealistic notions behind the internet being a democratizing force in finding the freedom of discovering the unknown.
 
The reality is the fact that the internet has actually become a place of confirmation bias, and ego driven plasticity and shallowness.  In that, there’s a race to compete at who is the most beautiful in the most beautiful spots in the world, as can be seen by wading through any given Instagram feed.  This is so severe, hotels have “Instagram moments”, and even painted walls with hashtags, so you can share an image of the brand or brands you most closely align with.  In the most trafficked websites, places like Facebook and Instagram have become a hall of mirrors for narcissists.  It’s an interesting development that ties closely into the notion that travel is just another form of consumerism.  I believe that to be highly cynical, but it’s all about what sort of traveler you are, and there’s a number of modern travelers that “go to the pretty place my friend went, compete for a better photo”, who essentially commodify the idea of travel to build “personal brand”.  As I will address all this in another article about entitlement, I would like to focus on the aspect of the internet *actually* democratizing our arena of travel, a bit.  Airbnb type of options have created access to many people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a destination.  However, it’s also create an influx of unknown inventory.
 
The prior Economist article takes an interesting focus on short term rental impacts.  It is the wild west, and its poorly regulated, as cities fall prey to self-interested individuals who have chosen to create illegal hotels in residentially zoned districts.  I like AirBnB/VRBO, I use AirBnB, and without it, we may not have been able to afford a few cities we have stayed in.  However, the notion it is all “small families renting a spare room” is brazenly absurd.  It is real estate speculators making a lot of money by removing rental inventory (did I mention I had a post about staffing issues, as well?) from areas, and profiting off the relatively new short term rental markets.  That being said, a problem with overcrowding is that the market used to be perceptively regulated by known inventory in hotel rooms.  This new wild west has created a crush of new availability, that cannot be easily tracked.
Mr Dichter also points to several other reasons for the shift. When flag carriers ran air travel as a cartel, flights cost a fortune—over £200 ($230) for the 300-mile jaunt between London and Dublin in the mid-1980s, for instance. But low-cost carriers like Ryanair (whose average fare was €40, or $46, last year) have transformed the industry. The rise of services like Airbnb, that allow locals to rent their homes to visitors, means that a place’s capacity for overnight stays is no longer limited by the number of hotel rooms.
That is FASCINATING.  I am not one who thinks travel should be only for the wealthy.  Nor am I one that feels VBRO/Homeaway/AirBnB are necessarily bad.  The world takes all types of accommodations in hospitality.  Just like I do not do fine dining every night, and there are times I don’t mind a food truck, there can be an entire spectrum of hotels and the way we find our ability to be hospitable.  But, we are seeing a time that is allowing brand new inventory of travelers that could not previously be planned for, nor recognized.  But, this “hug of death” that we are giving our favorite spots is making local authorities take note.  The reason AirBnb are banned is typically because of the disturbances, bad behavior of guests, or the way they alter neighborhoods in general.  But overreacting isn’t as sanguine as methodical actions that can bolster the entire industry.  As the Economist article further elaborates:

Local authorities are cobbling together strategies to cope. An extreme reaction is to ban tourists entirely (as Mr Duterte did in Boracay) or to cap visitor numbers (as Easter Island has done). Many ports, including Venice, limit the number of cruise ships, and there are calls for cities to limit parking spaces for tourist coaches. Both ships and coaches bring tight-fisted visitors. A study in the British city of Cambridge found that the average coach day-tripper spends just £3.

A more subtle approach is to fiddle with taxes and charges, so that they better reflect the costs tourists impose. Tourists staying in hotels in central Amsterdam pay a higher tax rate than those staying farther away. In Edinburgh councillors are reportedly considering a tourist tax, revenues from which would be spent on rubbish collection or improving infrastructure.

It isn’t hard to make a few logical leaps in lieu of this.  Firstly, travel will eventually be a sport of the very wealthy, and relatively un-affordable for the middle class, at least in visitation of famed “bucket list” locales.  Second with global warming being even more important than the overcrowding of tourist spots, it’s not hard to imagine severe regulatory actions are going to massively alter the landscape of tourism and hospitality, with new winners, new losers, and not much in-between.  Factually, places are already limiting the amount of tourists, such as Santorini, Cinque Terre in Italy, Everest, and Machu Picchu.  Another thought is that the places we love will not be the same places, as the overwhelming nature of global warming is that it terraforms as it happens.  San Diego just recorded the highest water temperatures in history. California fires are wreaking havoc, destroying lives, causing toxic air that impacts everyone, not just tourists.  The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest organism, and with its demise, so will the towns and communities that rely on the tourism.  Changes in snow consistency have caused a number of terrible seasons in Lake Tahoe, and changing temperatures are impacting Lapland resorts.  Even Great Britain is experiencing overcrowding at the most beloved holiday maker spots.  We’re seeing other alarming trends, as well… what was the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon destination in the world, Napa, will soon become inhospitable to that varietal, and winemakers are now experimenting with other options.
 
I do have a suspicion that a new era of a “Lonely Planet” traveler will appear, using the internet as intended to find new, hidden locales to slowly open up / discover / and eventually exploit.  I also have a strong suspicion that hyper-local travel will begin a new era of discovery, and visitation to oft ignored places in nearby regions.  People will tire of the high rates, overcrowding issues, and the overuse of favorite tourist spots.  Like the Yogi Berra quote goes, “That place is so popular no-one goes there anymore”.  There will always be travelers at the ultra-high end of luxury, but the middle ground may go the wayside with the disappearing middle class.

Of course, it’s a terribly odd thing, with much ambivalence, to even suggest something like “I went to Iceland and it was the best, but you shouldn’t go there anymore”.  But, it *is* true. At least, after our forest fires here, I’m taking a long hard look at travel, and it feels like plane travel is just straight up REALLY bad.  Of course, this isn’t a zero sum situation, and there are trade offs and things you can do to help the situation.  What’s more, the perception of what is bad is different than the reality.  A good example is that changing your diet, away from red meat, would be a significantly more helpful resolution than cutting out all travel, or insulating your home better to preserve energy (in fact, some governments are now looking at waste energy as a “renewable resource” if we can prevent it from ever being waste in the first place).  But, there are examples that would ultimately impact our industry, such as the recommendation for doing more video calls than commute traffic, especially flying.  But you can do your best by carpooling, using public transportation, or switching to a bike.

As you will see in the links, the advice seems to be a gentle, unappealing nudge towards awareness of the impact of travel, and even finding people that are completely clear in suggesting that if you care about our planet and stability, you should refrain from travel.  Because we’re all visiting the same places, there’s recommendations to not visit popular tourist destinations:  Isle of Skye, Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Venice, Santorini, Bhutan, Taj Mahal, Everest, Machu Picchu, Galapogas, Cince Terre, and Antarctica.  This is significant enough that there’s actual tourist fatigue and backlash from spots known solely for being a destination, such is the complexity to resolve.  It’s not like saying I will stop all travel, and it’s not like saying I have any of the answers. But in this transparent world, travel, especially planes and cruise ships, need to have a reckoning moment with themselves, before the public wakes up and craters our business, or governments put caps on global flights, etc.  Our lust for tourism has real world infrastructural impacts, and like everything, we need to find moderation and balance to resolve the issues.  A great example is how our Navy drank, literally, all of Iceland’s beer.  Anecdotes like that can make you chuckle, until you’re one of the people without any beer.  Now, replace beer with “home”, and understand the geopolitical implications of global warming causing forced migration, border conflicts, immigration issues, and the loss of people’s homes due to rising sea levels, and the like.  Where do global warming refugees go, and who will take them without a fight?  Asylum applications in the EU increase during higher temperature periods.
 
So, in response to this post heavily laden with frightening and complex science and bullet points, the question needs to be addressed with actionable solutions, namely…. what can we do as consumers, and what can we do as a business?
 
First, be an activist!  The BBC suggests simple ways you can become involved:
 
1) Get on-board with renewable power sources.
2) Be an advocate in pushing governments to effect change.
3) Try to reduce driving, if not going car free altogether.
4) Change your diet, and drop beef.
5) Reduce flying.
6) Understand industry carbon footprint, and alter buying habits
7) Have fewer children, or be child free, is the single largest impact you can have at reducing your impact on the climate.
8) It isn’t just idealism… when you make conscious decisions, other people are known to adopt the habits.
 
And if that isn’t enough, here’s a more data driven and scientific look at about 150 high impact, medium impact, and low impact solutions that you can take part in to reduce climate change.  It seems of the top 3 arenas where you can really create change is to fly less, eat less red meat, and have less children.  But the nuances of what you can change run a bit deeper; take flying.  All flying is not created equal!  The New York Times article linked earlier in this post had some fascinating observations:

“According to a study from the World Bank, the emissions associated with flying in business class are about three times as great as flying in coach…   …When you land at a warm destination, flight attendants might ask you to shut your window shades, said Christine Boucher, a director of global environmental sustainability for Delta Air Lines. The reason? It reduces the amount of fuel used to cool the aircraft when it’s sitting at the gate, she said”.

It also notes that a number of flights use biofuels, so we should try and be aware of what carriers use what fuels, and where.  But this does get into the complexity of biofuels, and our rush to fix things, such that there is always an equal and opposite reaction.  In this case, the savior that was palm oil has turned into somewhat of a disaster, and as mentioned, corn is making it’s own weather systems (not to mention that ethanol had driven the price of corn up such that it was impacting Mexican family’s ability to get tortillas, sparking a riot a few years ago)
 
This is not chicken little, nor is this Nero fiddling. I’ve no answers, because the questions are barely being asked yet.  There’s intelligent people marking travel trends, and we do see a rise in hyper-local travel, from the last recession’s “staycation”, to shorter booking paces, shorter trips, combination of work/leisure trips, last moment trips, shorter travel times, and less global travel (less full PTO related two week extended holidays, and school break issues have rearranged traditional travel schedules).  Another impact is that people’s lives are in tumult, not knowing what disaster will alter their work/home/travel schedules next.  It is quite possible the shifting consumer behavior is also linked to changes in our atmosphere and weather patterns; we’re not sure if it will be snowy for our ski trips, we’re not sure if it will be nice at the beach or a roaring hurricane.  Millennial travel patterns also mirror these trends.  There are also people in the industry paying close enough attention to see the shifting of the conversation from sustainability practices to a larger ethos about how we approach these issues.  There are also enough new blogs and resources that talk about responsible travel and ethical tourism, that a dialogue is opening up, and accountability and self-awareness is multiplying.  Here are some more tips of how to be ethical as tourists, from Esquire, so it’s easy to see the conversation is gaining momentum.  If nothing else, there’s an engaged part of our industry that is begging to stop the defeatist nihilism, and actually do our best to do something about it.  “Be the change you seek” is how Gandhi’s quote goes, yes?  It’s going to take awareness, governments, accountability, activism, and empathy to achieve the necessary balance that the world, and human civilization, will need to prosper and flourish into the unforeseen future.  However, we are a curious band of animals, because our idiosynchrasies can often interrupt what’s right.  Remember when Amazon patented an algorithm that would interrupt a gift from ever being sent, if it wasn’t something you wanted, and would replace the intended gift with something from your wish list?  This idea was a pragmatic solution to the waste of returning packages and gifts from Amazon, purported to save billions in costs, and massively reduce carbon footprint.  People thought it was rude, and not proper protocol to reject Aunt Sally’s thoughtful gift of a sweater you have no use for.  Our weird foibles will certainly become hurdles of illogic, along the way.  Having a holistic, grand awareness is noble, until the rubber meets the road, and it directly impacts what *you* want.  It’s easy to be idealistic, when it really doesn’t effect you.  So what are you going to do about all this? Me? I’m going to do my best.
 
But, we reach the end, and as a concerned businessman, for our human people, our planet, and my cherished industry that has so many positives…. I admit I’ve come to a proverbial cul-de-sac of ambivalence and non-answers.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand how we might run headlong into addressing this issue, without shooting ourselves in both feet.  The Wapo article on air travel pollution had a haunting, complex notion of the best solution:
“Staying home, in fact, is the essence of making a big difference in a big hurry. That’s because nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel. Cancel a couple long flights, and you can halve your carbon footprint. Schedule a couple, and you can double or triple it”.
What it seems is that our industry isn’t going to be able to directly address it, but it seems a lot will be a retroactive attempt to weather it (pun intended).  It seems that the solution is us, as consumers, making conscious choices that drive change, on a communal or government level.  It’s not always fair to put things directly on consumers and citizens, because it’s so often that we feel inconsequential and powerless.  But public awareness will drive governments who drive regulations, and it’s up to America (and all nations) to make these changes where it counts… at the ballot box, and voting with our conscience and dollars when we act as consumers.  The majority of travel is generally regional, so we can have our industry to focus on the locals, educate guests on company ethos, and ramp up our sustainability efforts with solar, geothermal, and renewable resources.  Business will need to add environmental systems to buildings, add solar, controls that limit energy usage, follow green housekeeping guidelines, and take the time to create a new stewardship / environmental sustainability page in guest directory and websites to help educate guests what they can do during their stay, whether reduction of waste, food waste, water usage, power, etc.
A friend who is a climatologist tried to explain real impacts:
For now air travel is a relatively small (<5%) contributor to global emissions, even if it is 95% of my own personal emissions. My view is that we should and must prioritize fixing all the things for which reasonable alternatives exist. This is up to and including flying any shorter distance for which a train or bus could work. But there is no other way for me to get to SF on the 23rd of December, so I’m gonna fly. One simplified explanation of my philosophy is that I think we need to save the world for long-distance travel.
The good news is that planes can fly on biofuels. They can do it today. They already blend some in. It’s a question of certifying and scaling up production, which could feasibly be done within a decade in Sweden. Will there be enough biomass to fuel global air travel forever? Not sure, but I have hope, especially now that it looks like cars will be electric. There are reasons for optimism.
There are also horrible reasons for pessimism, as you point out. If anything I expect the situation in the actual natural world, it’s response to climate change, is worse than is widely understood, and worsening fast. So unfortunately the progress we’re making on energy and transport — real progress — is not keeping up with the response of the earth’s immune system.
And he continues about what we can really do…..
No individual consumer’s action has a meaningful impact on actual emissions. None. Not even never flying ever again or selling your sports car. They just don’t. They drown in the marginal new action, which is emitting.
Your consumer actions, however, do have a meaningful impact on markets, though. They send a signal about what consumers like you value, and what tomorrow’s markets should look like.
Flying less sends a marginal signal about how much you want to fly. Not sure that does a massive amount of good.
Selling your sports car sends a very-marginal-indeed signal about how you feel about your sports car. Not a massive thing.
Offsetting your flights sends a (positive) marginal signal that people want to do something about the impact of their flights.
Buying a different car next time sends a positive, and much more substantial, signal, that low-emitting cars are the market of choice of tomorrow’s wealthy consumer. So does buying a train ticket when that is an alternative to air travel, or an organic avocado when that is an alternative.
So personal accountable exists, and it depends on how far you want to take it. 
I am of the opinion that my notion of a crisis of empathy could easily be countered by transcendentalism, a rich notion of understanding our human condition in context of the natural order of things.  There’s a concept of transcendental humanism, which may take care of the planet in a more caring way than past belief structures that have sought to commodify and exploit the planet. It will take all of us, government, industry and human beings, to engineer our way out of this problem.  If we don’t come together to do so, low occupancy will be the least of our concerns.
 
The simplest solution… don’t eat red meat, don’t travel too much, don’t have many kids, and don’t go where everyone else is going.  That’s easier said than done. I eat *less* red meat. I do and will travel. I do not have children. But I’ll probably go to Iceland again.  Part of all of this is accountability and self-awareness, not just celebrating what you do that benefits the planet, but acknowledging the privilege of being able to choose when you selfishly want what you want.  It’s going to be many, many individual changes and moments of awareness and education.  We can all do good, and recognize where we might be better.  Let’s all join in on the humbling awareness of our hypocrisy, and desire to be better versions of ourselves, for the planet, and future us.
I’ve written about the complexity of being environmentally minded in the past, on my personal blog, about the complexity of thinking green vs being green. You may enjoy:

About Michael

No Comments

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)