The impact of air travel implosion
Dear Sir, — In the letter headed “XR is not extremist but courageous” (Chronicle), Jane Smith advertised the next day’s Hanley meeting to press for action on climate change.
On the following day, Saturday, I attended a pro-environment function at Swan Bank Methodist Mission two miles away. Friends of the Earth, founded 1969, was represented. So were several new groups, including Eco Burslem. A very new paper, Hourglass, was available. It was only four issues old. They were manifestations of an extraordinary country-wide mushrooming of such groups.
There is a tendency to blame governments.
Admittedly they are often indifferent or hostile. Sometimes they pay lip-service-while driving forward growth-orientated policies. They fear electorates that shut their eyes to the reality of climate change because doing anything about it would lower their “standards of living”.
This wilful blindness might well continue until flood water is sloshing round people’s knees and food, medicine, gas, electricity and water supplies are disrupted on a large scale. Thousands or more might have to die before action would be licensed by the electorate and carried out by the government.
The extreme difficulty of persuading people can be seen from attacking any aspect of the crisis.
The case of air travel is an ideal example. In the UK something like 500,000 workers are employed providing it. That is not counting many side-lines, from Wright’s Pies to motion sickness pills and from eyeshades to compression socks. Travel supplements cost acres of trees and provide jobs in Brazil. Hotels would wilt without travel.
There are three basic reasons for air travel.
Tourism is the most obvious and visible. It is already a weight as much as a source of income. Historic sites, from Venice to Snowdon, have complained of overuse. Could we not use total electronic immersion on a large scale?
A helmet is cheaper than a flight.
In Brave New World a few hours as Emperor of Mars sweetened the week’s labours.
Business is another reason for travel. But in these days of video-conferencing, do we really need it? There might be less business anyway.
The third reason is a desire to see relatives and friends. There is, to be realistic, no real substitute for this.
Severe restriction of air travel would bring immense complications. Where would those half million workers go? And those in ancillary occupations?
This sudden sweeping redundancy would cause severe social dislocation. The implosion would affect the whole economy. Little thought appears to have been given to this. Perhaps it should now.
Some interesting possibilities come to mind. If coffee, tea and sugar, considered essentials for centuries, disappear, immense bewilderment and anger will be generated. However substitutes could be, indeed are being, developed.
And a warmer climate might enable us to grow our own, especially if we tweaked them genetically. Beetroot farms could be multiplied. Pressure might stimulate the brain cells and adaptability-of those who survive.
Jane asserts that “the villains here are obvious” — big business, corrupt politicians etc. But it is, as indicated above, not just a case of wicked governments opposed to innocent peoples. The peoples are complicit. As yet they will not vote for far-sighted governments willing to enforce harsh but effective policies. They want to have their cake and eat it.
In short the situation is immensely complicated. It is not a simple matter of demonising governments but the necessity of pressing home a strenuous and determined campaign to convert the electorate — before it is too late. — Yours faithfully,