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MtnGoat
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PostMon May 13, 2002 8:52 am 
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"So you recycle your newspapers and carrier bags, take buses and trains wherever possible and harangue the authorities to switch to wind power. You're green, you care about the environment... and you are furious that we're melting the planet while George Bush thinks that Kyoto should stick to being a tourist destination.
And then you blow it all by jumping on that cheap flight to Thailand or America.

You've just used up all your 'carbon credits', or environmental Brownie points, in one go. The average jet pumps around a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every passenger it carries from London to New York. One return flight to, say, Miami, and you're responsible for more carbon dioxide production than a year's motoring.

Air transport is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions but has so far sparked relatively little concern among governments and international bodies. When the Earth Summit convened in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, aviation was barely an issue for those gathering to 'save the planet'.

Ten years later, the issue can no longer be avoided. It will certainly be on the agenda at the World Summit on Sustainable Development - dubbed Rio Plus Ten - in Johannesburg this August. Once the world's leaders and every green organisation on the globe has flown in and stepped from their aluminium tubes, they will be forced to reflect on the question: can we carry on shrinking the world without melting the planet?

More immediately, the World Ecotourism Summit opens in Quebec next Sunday in what has been declared the International Year of Ecotourism. Travel industry leaders will argue the toss on whether 'eco' and 'tourism' can ever live happily together, but there will be shockingly little debate on whether there is any point in having the greenest of green eco-resorts in deepest Peru if all the wealthy, sandalled 'ecotourists' each burn six tonnes of carbon dioxide getting there and back.

Eugenio Yunis, the World Tourism Organisation's director of sustainable development, admits that his organisation is only now beginning a study on the environmental impact of air travel. It expects to come up with some answers by Jo'berg but will not be focusing on the topic in Quebec.

Yunis is strident in his defence of people's insatiable appetite to fly the world. 'The important point is people's desire for mobility. The expansion of tourism demand is something that cannot be controlled - we live in a free society and the solution is not to stop people travelling or price them out of the sky with taxes. So we have to make these trips as least damaging as possible.'

Like many proponents of the freedom to fly wherever we want whenever we want, Yunis talks about the jets of the future being run on hydrogen and the airlines investing billions in newer, more efficient aircraft. But the prospect of viable alternatives to kerosene as the normal aviation fuel is probably 50 years away. And the fact that the world's aircraft fleet has doubled its fuel efficiency over the past 30 years does not make up for the fact that global air traffic has quadrupled since 1970, from 350 billion passenger miles a year to 1,500 billion passenger miles a year.

This is forecast to more than double by 2015 and double or even triple again by 2050. Where on earth are we going to put all those runways, planes and greenhouse gases?

You could ponder on it, perhaps, as you go round and round in the holding 'stack', waiting to land late (again) at Heathrow. This is the kind of air traffic control delay that forces British Airways alone to burn 100,000 extra tonnes of fuel per year. Despite such delays, it has never been easier or cheaper to fly. The slump in air travel after the terrorist attacks of 11 September was just a blip, and traffic is recovering faster than expected.

The general trend in recent years has been boom, boom, boom. Long-haul charters, bargain offers from scheduled airlines, and jets that can fly ever further without refuelling have almost put Bangkok into the weekend break league and made Down Under feel like a hop, skip and jump from Heathrow or Manchester.

Air fares have fallen by 40 per cent in real terms in the past 25 years. And in Britain the mushrooming of the low-cost airlines in the past five years has caught the public's imagination, with flights sometimes for under a tenner on the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet. Why take a coach to Skegness when you can fly to Dublin or Barcelona for less?

People who had never flown before took to the skies. Those who flew regularly started taking off more often. On business, on holiday, or on a whim. Airports such as Luton and Stansted thought all their Christmases had come at once, and for the British public, rising prosperity, bargain tickets and an insatiable appetite for travel all came together in a heady cocktail.

But just as the bonanza is taking off, so the alarm bells start ringing. In the Eighties the car became the symbol of independence, freedom and personal mobility. Cheap, fun, cool - let's build more roads.

And where did that get us? Britain's motorists are now going nowhere fast, with the worst congestion and highest car dependency in Europe. Serious concerns about the effects of road traffic pollution on human health and global warm ing have shattered the illusion of car as king. Is the jumbo jet destined to go the same way in the twenty-first century?

It is easy to think of airports as a problem only to the locals who live under the flight path, and of aircraft as distant spectacles that simply pump out 'a bit of exhaust' a mile up, where no one needs worry about it.

But environmentalists warn that unless demand is capped, growth in air travel has alarming implications both for global warming and for the square footage of Tarmac apron and terminal buildings proliferating across the last vestiges of our green and pleasant land."

http://observer.co.uk/travel/story/0,6903,713881,00.html

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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MCaver
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PostMon May 13, 2002 12:00 pm 
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Good article. Thanks for posting it. Personally, I don't care for flying, not from fear or environmental concerns (up until now), but because of the hassle. I'm a roadtrip kind of guy. I haven't been on a plane in over a year, yet I've been back to Montana and Texas since then. Nothing like freedom of the open road if you ask me. Sometimes flying can't be avoided, though, like next Thursday for me. And saying anyone who flies on a plane can't express concerns about the environment (as the article seems to do to at least grab attention) is rather binary. It's a coast-to-coast world and sometimes that can't be avoided, particuarly in business.
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Dslayer
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PostMon May 13, 2002 1:40 pm 
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Oddly--or maybe not all that oddly-I've been thinking lately about what would happen to us personally, in my case a guy who drives to work and back 70 miles a day and I'm about an hour away from the places in the outdoors I frequent most if the supply of gas was greatly curtailed in some fashion or form.  When I was taking environmental science classes in the late 70's/early 80's there were dire predictions about the resource being exhausted by the end of the 20th C.  That, of course, did not come to fruition but the resource ultimately will run out--and we're always a gang of testy Arabs away from a disaster.  Clearly, we can't go on this way,and yet there's no plan to create alternatives anywhere that I can see.

So when it hits the fan--Am I going to be living in a place where I have access to at least some of the places I love?

And someday---maybe not in my lifetime--it will hit the fan.

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polarbear
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PostMon May 13, 2002 5:11 pm 
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Who knows how much oil is really left?  I suspect we have more than we let on as the amount would kind of be a strategic issue.  I don't have a problem with people who conserve and then hop on a jet.  People who are really conscientous are that way with respect to travel too.  How much business travel is really necessary?  It's amazing how much a company can cut back when they really have to.  I prefer to drive than fly, because I hate missing all the country that's in between.
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Dslayer
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PostTue May 14, 2002 6:51 am 
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Polarbear-

I've done minimal flying, but from what I've seen there almost a whole 'nother country out there in the air and in airports-hell the big airports are cities unto themselves practically.I 've got to think with modern communications, a lot of business flying is superfluous. I, like you, woould rather drive anyway.

I was just wondering where Joe-regular-guy like me ends up when he can't drive to escape-I got to thinking about just how much I depend on being able to do that-how much gas I use going to places and how I would feel if I got cut off form that.  Might be prudent for a a guy who likes the outdoors to start considering where he'd like to light, i.e. be able to head out the backdoor with a rifle or a fihsing pole rather than have to drive a ways to get to those places. I suspect you're right-who knows how much oil is left and we're never going to be told anyway.

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"The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is my concealed weapon permit."-Ted Nugent
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PostTue May 14, 2002 10:21 am 
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How quickly we forget the long lines for gas in the 70's and early 80's. How quickly we jump on the SUV 4WD bandwagon because once or twice a year we can drive a teeny further (but get half the mileage for the other 99.99% of the miles). How qwickly we have to have 3-car garages and 3200 sq ft homes, twice as big as an earlier generation or two. How quickly indeed.
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MtnGoat
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PostTue May 14, 2002 11:50 am 
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"And saying anyone who flies on a plane can't express concerns about the environment (as the article seems to do to at least grab attention) is rather binary."

I can't see where the author contends that at all. All she is saying that if you think you're paying attention to your impact but you ignore air travel, you're not on target, and in a way equivalent to driving for an entire year.  

Besides, anyone can have concerns, it's the choices that make the difference. Some folks get extremely down on SUV's, but all they need do is take *one* round trip plane trip of moderate milage and they may have well as driven an SUV at home all year! Why is it that a personal choice to emit tons of carbon is popular fodder for derision if it's done with an SUV, but OK when the same impact is made by air travel?

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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PostTue May 14, 2002 1:36 pm 
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One of the things that's interesting or maybe dismaying is how we 'environmentalists' sometimes make choices that are practical for our circumstances if not for the environment that we love.  For us, the SUV--Dodge Durango was practical---growing family-we travel up to and around White Pass a lot--make several trips to Montana per year and one in the winter-so 4WD and size was imperative, or so we thought....I think we make a lot of decisions that way--I could work closer to home or vice versa--but I chose to live near my parents--they're 80 and 73 so I make a 70 mile round trip per day.

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MtnGoat
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PostTue May 14, 2002 1:48 pm 
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Love mine. With wife, kid and dog, and then camping gear and a rough road or two, the mileage is a tradeoff I'm happy to make for not cramming everyone in a subaru or mommy van and then beating the crap out of it!

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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polarbear
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PostTue May 14, 2002 5:24 pm 
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How about are you still green at sea level?
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/66479_air15.shtml
and
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/67321_air20.shtml

As Kermie says, "It ain't easy bein' green."
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Stefan
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PostWed May 15, 2002 4:11 pm 
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The only solution to most problems in the world is global population control.

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MtnGoat
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PostWed May 15, 2002 4:17 pm 
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That's taking care of itself, Europe is already dropping below a "replacement" population number, with births beginning to lag deaths.

From what I understand, the general theory these days is that the population curve no longer shows unending growth of global population, the guesstimate is we'll max out in around 2050 and level off or even decline. Some decent news for a change!

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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MCaver
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PostWed May 15, 2002 9:04 pm 
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I'm curious where you heard these numbers. I can't imagine declines in Europe and the US countering growth rates in places like China and India.
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PostThu May 16, 2002 2:25 pm 
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I'll try to find some time to dig them up. Oddly enough, I believe China and India birth rates are declining, China for the obvious reason that they control births by forced abortions, infanticide, etc, and as well that as they gain economic strength, birth control gets more popular all on it's own.

Apparently India as well is making headway, and it's actually the rest of the 3rd world where population growth is the largest.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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PostThu May 16, 2002 2:31 pm 
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Wow, that's good to hear. Maybe there's slight hope for us afterall  tongue.gif
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