is no question that Westerners visiting developing countries should
respect the customs and culture of the
locals. They should ensure that their tourist dollar goes toward local
development rather than multinational corporations. Unfortunately, that
often does not happen. But there is
more to it than that.
Sustainable tourism also means avoiding flying. If you haven't got time
to travel to your preferred destination by surface transport, you
should stay at home.
That may seem a bit harsh. Surely if we can afford a flight, we are
entitled to it? Besides, how are we Europeans supposed to travel
to India for our meditation retreats without flying?
Before aeroplanes were invented, countless British people traveled to
India, and countless Indians travelled to Britain. How did they do
that? Ask a stupid question... Try this
link: rome2rio or search the internet for "cargo ship tourism".
If you are ready for the truth about sustainable tourism (most people
are not), here it is: The
aviation industry is making a large and growing contribution to global
warming. The oft-quoted figure is "only" 2% of global anthropogenic
CO2, but given the relentless growth of the industry, this figure is
probably closer to 3% by now. More importantly, the total global
warming effect of aviation is 2 to 4 times that of the CO2, due to the
other greenhouse gases involved and the high altitude at which
they are released.
If the Wikipedia
on this topic doesn't shock you into giving up intercontinental
flights for short visits to exotic destinations, nothing will. Please
What about Lonely Planet?
I must admit that I am a great fan of Lonely Planet Guides. In fact, an
embarrassingly large section of my bookcase is devoted to them.
recent years, all Lonely Planet Guides have contained an honest,
statement (toward the end of the book, on the travel page) about the
aviation to global warming. Apparently, the travel of all
Lonely Planet authors is offset. The statement seems perfectly
reasonable at first sight. But if you think about it, it is far too
little, far too late.
If we were being honest about climate change, we would agree that
Lonely Planet and all other
such guide books should immediately stop recommending flying. In fact,
they should immediately stop providing
helpful information about air travel, because such information - and
travel guides generally - merely encourage large numbers of people to
fly. Instead, travel guide authors should explore the different surface
travel possibilities. Beyond that, they should recommend that people
take their holidays in
their local region.
Another truth that many are ignoring is that offsetting simply doesn't
work. Offsetting is always welcome if it
means financially supporting organisations that are planting trees,
taking political action to slow climate change, and promoting
But it is misleading to claim that such donations "offset" the CO2
produced when flying. Here's why:
A typical intercontinental return flight consumes the equivalent of
ton of carbon per passenger. That's comparable with driving a regular
car in a regular way for a year. To offset that would require not
only a certain number of new trees. Planting the trees is just
start. The trees must be reliably nurtured to maturity and then
reliably looked after for
several decades. Even if that works, which it usually does not, there
is a big time lag of a decade or two between the emissions and the
offsetting. During that time, global warming is happening.
The honest solution is to stop both flying and deforestation.
Right now, both are proceeding at an alarming rate, and most of us
are in denial about it.
The bottom line
Burning large amounts of fossil carbon is
causing large numbers of future deaths - no matter how or why we are
burning it. It follows that all burning of fossil carbon has to stop as
soon as possible,
everywhere. Given that aviation is a major contributor, flying is only
justifiable in urgent, life-and-death situations.
This is the "plane
truth" that most people are avoiding. The carbon party is over. It's
time to clean up the mess.
The opinions expressed on
this page are the
opinions. Readers who know and care about this topic are asked to
contact the author with suggestions for improving or extending the content: parncutt at
gmx dot at. Back to Richard Parncutt's homepage