Friday, September 21, 2007

Playground Earth

I got one of those emails today requesting me to sign a petition to get the Canadian government off its butt and commit to doing something serious about global climate change. Even the dead have begun to feel its effects which says a lot about the powers-that-be in Ottawa these days. Arctic graveyards are being reclaimed by the sea, rising ocean temperatures are creating monster storms. The list of nasties goes on.

I know we all love to paddle, and many of us Westerners are fortunate enough to be able to fly to distant places to do it, but should we be adding to the planet's woes by doing this more than once in a while? My take is yes, go on your trip, but travel with moderation in mind. Once a year ought to be enough most of the time. There are people who regularly fly overseas several times a year to paddle, present or teach. They are a minority, granted, but I think it's time even they stop and reconsider. Could the presenting and teaching be done more locally by equally competent people? Would it be as effective to present your 'talk' via a real-time video link or simply as a DVD home-theater style show? Do you really need to paddle more than once a year in an exotic locale?

It's always easy to point the finger at the 'big carbon users' and say "naughty, naughty", but if we all change our habits slightly and think about new ways of doing things which reduce our personal carbon footprint, the net change in emissions will benefit us all, much more than if a few big offenders stop and we don't.

Okay, I'm off the soap-box. What do you think?



Tillerman said...

Great point. I'm feeling a bit guilty on this score at the moment as I am planning too overseas trips to sail in regattas in the next 6 months. I'd normally only do one of these a year at most but a weird schedule this year has put them so close together.

And now I'm thinking that to train for the Australia regatta in February I need to fly somewhere warm in January.

I know this is not good for the planet. On the other hand I turn 60 next year and I'm starting to wonder how many more years I'm going to be fit enough to sail at this level. Sort of feel I've got to take these opportunities when they arise.

Tough one.

Michael said...

Interesting point and I see your dilemma. I know of at least one kayaker who has made at least 5 return flights across the 'pond' in 2007 suggesting that some of us may be over-doing it when it comes to non-essential travel for pleasure purposes (although they might not agree with me)! Nor are they even closing in on 60 like you and me (actually, I'm over!). It makes me question what high mileage travellers like this person are thinking about, if indeed this question bothers them at all. Perhaps they don't care.

Silbs said...

It is a dicey problem, and I don't think "little" efforts will cut it. Those planes are going to fly those trips whether one of us is on them or not. I believe we need a change of mind set of the collective consciousness, something I don't see happening soon. Maybe it is going to take a big scare.

Douglas Wilcox said...

Hi Michael
I very much agree with you.

Silbs, I see your point but certainly here in the UK the effects of our behaviour is beginning to reach collective conciousness. Tonight I watched an advert for a new concentrated fabric softner. The main selling feature was that it would save thousands of lorry (truck) movements per year if we all bought concentrated fabric softener. Of course we could do even better by just not buying any fabric softener!

I am lucky to have such good sea kayaking within short driving distances, I have not felt the need to paddle anywhere else.

I used to fly a lot for work in the UK and western Europe. I have cut the number of trips using Michael's strategy and try to use the train instead of the plane for essential journeys.

I do have longer work trips to places like Pakistan and Taiwan. I select these carefully and do not go just for the "junket".

I was going to replace my 5 year old car but decided that better fuel consumption in a new model would not be balanced by the carbon footprint of manufacturing a new one.

I hope I have made a start.

Michael said...

Silbs - I hate to say it, but the dinosaurs probably got 'The Big Scare' and disappeared. If each of us makes a small effort to change our ways, we'll survive this crunch. After all, planes don't fly half full for long. They soon alter the schedule setting up fewer flights to meet the reduced demand.

Michael said...

Derrick posted an excellent rebuttal to this post on his blog. I don't agree fully with his take, but it's well worth reading his blog at "".

Anonymous said...

"A one way flight on a Boeing 747 between London's Heathrow Airport to O'hare Airport in Chicago emits about 2,205 lbs of Co2 per person according to the Carbon Neutral Company. ... Interestingly the average American travels about 12,000 miles per year by car which depending on the vehicle comes in around 13,000 lbs of carbon emitted!"

It's not clear exactly where Derrick got these numbers but his interpretation of them isn't fair.

It would be more fair to indicate the C02 consumed for a two-way trip, 4410 lbs, since that is more typical. Note that the 13,000 lbs produced by the car includes round trips. Thus, a single trip to England consumes a wopping 34% of the CO2 production of a car over a whole year!

It's even worse if you concider that a typical trip is a week long. This would mean the rate of CO2 production is 4410 lbs in one week for the airplane trip versus per 250 lbs/week for the car (17 times the rate of the car). Also, the driving is likely more of a necessity than the trip to England.

Silbs said...

I don't disagree, Michael..and you are right: planes don't fly half full for long. To me, you see, that is a the big kind of change I was referring to. So, it has begun.

bonnie said...

Seems a little bit like dieting. I went for a checkup for the first time in a long time a couple years ago & found myself weighing a bit more than I need to.

When that happens, there's the go on the rigorous diet & try to lose 10 pounds fast approach -

or the OK, let's just cut down on the consumption & ramp up the exercise a bit approach.

I took the latter because I wasn't thinking short term - I was thinking "Probably better to make some minor adjustments for the long run instead of major adjustments that I just won't be able to maintain".

Guess I do that with the environmental stuff too. Little things like trying to be good & use a mug at work, or reusing cups when I don't, drinking tap water instead of bottled, trying to remember my shopping bag when I go to the store.

Of course I don't own a car & get everywhere on public transit, but that's an unrbanite's benefit.

I figure nothing one person does is going to make a big difference, but if a whole lot of people get just aware enough to try to remember to do even little things, then maybe we'll start having a cumulative effect. So I try to be one of those whole lot of people.

The thing I don't like about the carbon offset payments is it feels like the classic American problem-solving method of throwing money at the problem.

I guess that does help but I do wonder if people do that instead of thinking "Do I really need an SUV"?