I have been unable to come to grips with the increasingly prevalent notion that travel is immoral, at least to the extent that it consumes fossil fuels and contributes to global warming.
Yet I’m unable to dismiss the idea. I believe it must be considered.
It would be easiest to react with scorn, which has become the default
response in our society when someone challenges any widely held
assumption. The trick is not so much to scorn the idea. Scorn the people who support the idea. Call them lunatics or tree-huggers. If you must address the idea at all, exaggerate the argument to a ridiculous degree and then ridicule the words you put in other people’s mouths.
It works with any idea, and we’re all so used to this tactic that we just tune in the part we agree with or tune out the whole mess. Thoughtful debate about the merits of the idea are boring and require us to consider points of view that don’t serve our personal needs.
Clearly, I love to travel. I want to travel. I believe that travel broadens my mind, enriches my life and makes me a better person. (I hope, also, that it contributes to cross-cultural understanding because I always try to understand stuff.)
Plus, I’m a travel blogger. I try to help people find ways to travel economically. I don’t want to think that I’m on the same moral level as, say, an advocate for robbing old ladies or killing puppies.
How easy it would be to tune out any additional thoughts on the subject.
But I can’t deny that my travel also consumes fossil fuels, contributes hydrocarbons to the atmosphere and (most scientists agree) contributes to global warming. This is true, whether I want it to be or not.
Of course this is an enormously complex issue with a multitude of angles to consider. The New York Times takes on a few of them this morning in a piece that focuses on bio-fuels in aviation. The article also reports that a survey showed 54 percent of the British population felt guilty about flying.
So if I want to be an ethical person, and I do, must I stop traveling? Am I selfless enough to do that?
I don’t think I am.
I’m willing to reconsider my choices and lean toward mass transportation over private transportation, so that maybe I’ll choose a train over a rental car when I’m on vacation. I’m willing to look at my overall carbon footprint and make choices in other areas of my life – to take the bus to work and to give up air conditioning in the house, for example.
That proves only that I’m willing to endure a bumpy ride with strangers or to sweat a little on a summer evening more than I’m willing to stay at home.
And I just haven’t figured out whether that’s good enough.