This regular column on tips to live more sustainably comes from the 52 Weeks Climate Action Challenge. The challenge was created by Laurel Hood and Sherri Jackson. Hood is a retired Collingwood Collegiate Institute teacher, and Jackson is a writer and speaker, and ran as the Green Party’s candidate for the area in the last federal election. Both are climate activists.
This week’s challenge will be extremely easy for us after yesterday’s new lockdown announcement.
We were going to explain to you all the reasons why we should limit travelling, but, the risk of spreading a deadly pandemic honestly wasn’t on our radar when we came up with these challenges a year ago!
Still, it seems some people haven’t gotten the message that we should be staying put. Exhibit A – the number of public figures who took international holidays in the past month, while the rest of us were deciding whether to change into clean track pants, or leave on the ones we’ve worn for the past week.
The pandemic just adds an exclamation mark to our challenge this week. We’re talking about air travel and cruises, and the damage they do to our environment.
I know you’re aware of all the amazing pictures of nature regenerating and healing. Fish in the canals of Venice. Clear vistas in India and New York. Wildlife in the streets. With all our machinations over how to heal the planet, the obvious answer is, stop doing damage, and then get out of the way.
The reason we have seen an almost 10 per cent decrease in planetary emissions in 2020 is literally that we are not doing as much damage. Fewer factories spewing chemicals, way fewer air flights and cars on the roads. More people working from home. And significantly less tourism. We’re not pumping as much into the atmosphere, and that’s a good thing. But, as we know, it’s short-lived once the pandemic loosens its grip.
Studies show that emissions from tourism account for about eight per cent of the global total. Air travel makes up a good portion of this. Cruises do not get off so easily either – they are tremendous abusers, not only with huge emissions, but in general pollution of our oceans.
So, once we are given the all-clear for business as usual, we need to reconsider whether that’s really what we want. Are we going back to the way we were, or are we going to accept the gift of this time to think, and change things for the better?
Challenge 39: Analyze how you travel.
If you love to travel, review your travel plans. Commit to reducing your air travel and cruises. If you just can’t face (in normal times) a Canadian winter, here are some tips to reduce your impact when you do travel:
- Book direct flights. One flight is better than 2 or 3 connecting flights.
- Stay longer. I’m sure you don’t need convincing to do that (good option)!
- Go less often. If you normally take a distance holiday once a year, cut it back to once every second or third year (better option)
- Don’t fly (best option). Choose holidays where you can take a train or drive instead.
- If you do fly, buy carbon offsets - which is too little too late in my opinion but at least it’s something.
If you’re looking for some more tips, try this BBC article.
With many of us on limited holiday time, we’ve taken a Type-A personality approach to our holidays. Get in, get out as fast as possible. Fill the interval between with abundant activity to get your money/time worth. Take massive amounts of pictures to remind yourself you were away, because you didn’t actually have time to take in your surroundings. Sounds relaxing, doesn’t it?
I read a lovely article by someone who had taken the train recently. She mentioned how wonderful it was to see the scenery go by, to have a pleasant meal in the dining car, to chat with fellow travellers. In essence, she was talking about how the journey is the destination. Getting there is half the fun, if you let it be.
I know if you have ever driven south with a car full of children, you may be cocking an eyebrow at that.
There is no way to have a perfect vacation. But, there are a million ways to have a really good one. And, all those things that seem like disasters when they’re happening turn out to be your funny stories that will keep on entertaining family gatherings for years to come. It’s all gold.
I am a fan of distant and exotic travel. I love a new culture, new language, new experiences. So, I was skeptical about the staycation until we tried it. We rented a cottage about an hour from home, on the water, with a sandy beach. It was a raving success. I felt like I had been away for a month. I read at least five books sitting with my feet in the sand, and my kids playing nearby. We ate all kinds of things that are terrible for us. We played crazy games and did puzzles. We went for sunset walks every night, and had a campfire on the beach with guitars and lots of laughter. Everyone could do what fit for them, without the stress of “where is your passport”, and “do you seriously have to pee, AGAIN!”
We’ve revisited that cottage at least twice a summer for the past eight years. Now, my sister and her family come too, and cousins enjoy spending long hours swimming, paddle boarding and building sandcastles together. We’re having a wonderful time, and also building family bonds that I hope will last long after I’m gone.
So while you’re stuck at home for the next month, review your travel options. You may find that being at home is actually the best place in the world to be.
As T.S. Eliot said,
"...the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
Be grateful for where you live, and what you have.