The environmental impact of air travel is rarely considered, but has a big impact on our carbon footprint
Sheila Arellano, News Editor
The world today is at war. The psychological impacts of wealth are constantly fighting against the environment. It’s not news that money is a priority to many—if not all. Western values celebrate consumerism, wealth, and individualistic mindsets which lead to environmental apathy that incites people to believe the environment and everyday life are two separate things. This twisted understanding—or lack thereof—creates a dismissive attitude towards activities such as air travel.
When people are planning a trip or traveling for business, they don’t think their actions are contributing to climate change. In truth, air travel is one of the quickest growing sources of CO2. Alongside other types of transport, air travel contributes two percent of global emissions every year. In fact, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun, these emissions increased by 75 percent between 1990 and 2012 alone. The reasons for air travel vary, but the main ones include business and leisure. As air travel becomes cheaper, more people are able to afford it. This leads to more demand within airlines across the world.
Yet, restrictions on air travel could be the answer to a more sustainable future. Often, business travel entails attending a quick conference or meeting. Due to this immediacy factor, business trips are often short. But many of these trips can be avoided by restricting travel and using technology as an alternative. Instead of attending conferences and meetings in person, people could easily connect through Skype virtually instead.
While it may not be in the airlines best interest, the government should consider whether restrictions on travel are a viable option until more sustainable alternatives can be found. Finding an alternative to kerosene—which is the substance used as a fuel or fuel component for jet engines—is crucial. Current research shows there are few alternatives, although biofuels made from algae are a possible solution. Until a more sustainable fuel replaces kerosene or regulations are in place we should all consider the necessity of air travel—flight or fancy?
Individualistic views today have shaped people to be dismissive of the world’s problems if the impact is not immediate or direct. In order to achieve a greener and more sustainable future, people must think outside themselves and break the divide between nature and their daily lives.
Dialing down high consumption could create prosperity as consumer debt has risen to 35 per cent of household income since 2016. If money was spent consciously, this could be reduced. But this rule should not only apply to air travel. Reducing consumption is a key element in the fight to eliminate climate change. Similarly, by applying a wealth tax or limiting how rich someone can be, the pollution created by private air travel could be reduced significantly.
It is natural to feel small when facing a global problem that affects everyone differently, yet, to make a difference people must take responsibility and spend conscientiously. At this point, it is the least people can do.