My childhood was spent hopping on airplanes. While other kids were doing their homework at their kitchen table, my parents were flying me to Paris or Morocco for the weekend. I had traveled almost the whole world by the age I could legally vote. I always yearned to go, armed with every single Nancy Drew paperback and my boxy Fisher Price Kodak camera. We flew standby, which at the time meant you had to dress nicely to represent the airplane since my father was an American Airlines employee: No sneakers. Shirts with collars. Absolutely no jeans. To a kid, it meant each time I flew was a fancy celebration, like attending a gala. Constantly traveling taught me patience, openness, and awe.
I am in deep mourning at the loss of this freedom.
The privilege of traveling the world is something I am fully aware of when considering how I have to stop flying. I’m painfully aware of how very much I love it. The recent surge of wanderlusters making lifestyles out of working remotely in gorgeous locations has been a particularly hard reckoning, as it’s a community of those in love with the planet and the people on it. Why wouldn’t they be? This is a singular experience we are all having floating in space: Oxygen. Elephants. Love. And oceans. They are living the dream… a deeply, crappily unsustainable dream.
It’s beyond ironic that traveling out of deep love for the planet is contributing to killing that same planet.
Here are some quick stats for you to digest as you travel around your day:
- A small group of frequent fliers, 12 percent of Americans who make more than 6 round trips by air a year, are responsible for two-thirds of all air travel and, by extension, two-thirds of aviation emissions.
- The United States has the highest CO2 from emissions from passenger flights in the world: 24 percent of total air travel. The next closest, China, wasn’t even close at 13 percent.
- Global civil aviation accounted for 918 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, or about the emissions from Germany and the Netherlands combined, annually.
- By 2050, aviation could take up a quarter of the world’s “carbon budget,” or the amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted to keep global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels.
You can watch our other videos for more evidence of how we are killing the planet. But watch this one if you, like me, specifically care about traveling this gorgeous, tiny earth. We can try to grapple with this new normal together.