The Price of Flying High

By Daniel de la Calle

In his book How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, Chris Goodall breaks down the average 12.5 tonnes of CO2 per person yearly emissions in the UK into around 6 directly generated by the individual and another 6.5 generated by such things as “running offices, making fertilizer, smelting iron ore and transporting goods”.  He believes that we need to lower our emissions to at least 3 tonnes per capita to reach a sustainable level, which blatantly indicates the magnitude of the changes that need to come.
Reading further down I look at the more detailed table and see that almost 2.3 tonnes of our “own” emissions come from running the house and another 3.1 are from transportation.  The alarming figure, the one I want to focus on, is the 1.8 tonnes from air travel.
I try to eat and buy local foods, organic if possible, little meat, move around mostly by bicycle or on foot, recycle all that is recyclable wherever I happen to be, but all these good habits do not add to a fraction of what I pollute just with my air travel.  I am well aware that I fly much much more than those 1.8 tonnes.  If I put the miles I have been in the air just this year I could probably go around the world a couple of times.  I know that the best thing I could do for the environment would be to not fly, and still, it is undoubtedly the last thing I would be willing to give up.  It is my way to see the people I love, to move between the two places that currently dictate my life, to work, to travel to areas that will soon no longer exist (partly because of this lifestyle).
I am selfish, and this is not just my Catholic upbringing speaking;  we are self-serving animals with little self-restraint. Mr. Goodall believes in this “human virtue”, as he puts it.  I think I believe in it too, but my acts betray me.  It is easier to fool myself into believing I am doing good and to quiet my conscience with insignificant acts rather than to truly address the problem.

Sunset behind the wing, on the way to South America.

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