We Are Killing the Earth by… Travelling?!

“I’m not flying home this holiday… well if I have the time, I’d take a boat.”

Wait what? When I heard this firm statement for the first time last fall, I frowned, thinking this was just a joke. Spending ten days on the sea before reaching the destination? It sounds more like a journey back to Stone Age than a trip back home.

“Oh you don’t know? Apparently quite some people are doing it these days.”

So no, it wasn’t a joke. My friend is currently giving up on travelling, specifically air travelling, in order to reduce carbon footprint and save the planet. She showed me* just a few academic sources and blog articles with such eye-poppers as their titles: “Why I’m Never Flying Again”, “Flying’s moral dilemma: Your family or your climate?”, “Hypocrites in the air: should climate change academics lead by example?”… I had to admit, it all made sense. One study states that “A one-way flight from New York to San Francisco (2.23 tons of CO2) has nearly the same impact as driving a Hummer the same distance (2.81 tons)” (Holthaus, 2013). And what about car travel or other related things? When all these carbon emissions add up, what kind of damage are we actually doing to our global environment?

We have been warned again and again that if substantial changes are not made promptly, the environmental damage will go beyond repair, yet the situation is rather bizarre. Policy makers and people in power never seem to have the attitude or the right amount of energy to put sustainability as their priority. Then those of us who would like to consider ourselves as earth lovers, may have ironically done much more harm to our environment than we do protecting it. As an international student and a world traveller, I can’t help but question my lifestyle and decisions.

So, are all the awe-inspiring inventions of yesterday nothing but sugar-coated technology that comes with a price? We have all seen the economic advantage brought by globalization and the exchange of ideas made possible by travelling. Some of these benefits may contribute profoundly to the management of environmental issues and the development of green technology. Besides, it is hard to picture all that reward of travelling simply foregone, despite some environmentalists’ calling for localization once again. That being said, it is definitely interesting as well as less costly to opt for alternative means of transportation such as trains or boats. At the end of the day, it is still up to ourselves if we travel, how we travel, and how we live our life. I only hope we will not regret our decisions one day.

For those interested in calculating your own carbon footprint, here is UC Berkeley’s carbon footprint calculator that I came across.

Written by Freya Ziyan Lu.

*Sources recommended by Nicole Yaw.

Featured image rights go to Pexel.com.

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