Sustainable travel: the only beautiful and unexpected thing to come out of the pandemic
OPINION: We may have to search hard to find silver liners in a pandemic, but I think there’s a beautiful, unexpected thing that has come out of the past 18 months.
International borders are opening with a speed that seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago.
But the hope I’m talking about is not the expectation that we can resume travel the same way we did before. I think most of us know that it’s not very likely, that for a while at least it will be more complicated. Beyond that, we know we need to think differently about our travel choices, the why’s and the how’s.
* Whatever happens with COP26, the time to wait to save the Earth is over
* Everyone wants something different from the climate summit
* Climate change: net zero alone is not a card without getting out of prison
The COP26 negotiations, which begin this weekend in Glasgow, have galvanized the world’s attention to the type of planet we will have if we don’t do enough to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees of relative at the levels of the pre-industrial revolution. Terribly, we are currently on a course towards 2.7 degrees unless some drastic action is taken.
Travelers know this. They know that tourism is responsible for eight percent of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, much of it related to the transportation we use to get to our destinations. Many want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Skyscanner has just completed a major survey with YouGov, a UK market research firm, which examines Australian travelers’ attitudes towards the idea of traveling better, with a lighter footprint. Some 76 percent of Australians surveyed strongly agreed that making travel more sustainable is vital.
A majority of 59% responded that it was out of conviction that it is everyone’s responsibility to give back to society and take care of the planet; 49% said they would consider compensating for their trip the next time they book a flight, and 41% said they would pay more for a flight with better eco-clearances.
But we have this big cloud of carbon above our heads. “Zero carbon by 2050” is just a slogan if it is not accompanied by determined action over the next decade. Reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 is no longer seen as radical, but as the minimum we need to do to stop catastrophic warming.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by this. In the face of all this social and political turmoil, what difference does it make if a traveler chooses to offset their flights with carbon or stay at a resort that uses 100% renewable technologies? Surely it’s just a whistle in the wind?
First, being a “good” traveler is never a bad thing. There is so much that can be positive about the journey itself, distributing wealth, supporting local communities and being ambassadors for change. Our experiences are richer for it.
Now here’s the hope part.
In March 2020, when so much about the pandemic was unknown and frightening, there was talk of vaccines as a solution, but most experts warned that an effective and certified vaccine was years away. Even if a suitable vaccine was discovered, testing it, obtaining regulatory approval, and finally manufacturing and distributing it was a long-term task. Most experts agreed that we probably wouldn’t have an effective vaccine in the guns for two or three years – at the earliest.
We sit in cafes, see our families and friends, and book flights for 2022 because science, government, healthcare professionals, nonprofits and businesses have worked together to make vaccines and distribute them. And we didn’t just get one vaccine, we got several.
When I board my next flight, I will do so with the confidence of having vaccines in my arm. And immense gratitude for the privilege.
There are still problems – the deployment is uneven around the world, which needs to be addressed urgently – but it is a powerful demonstration of what happens when there is an international will to resolve a crisis that appears to be. insurmountable.
It’s the same with the climate. We can solve this. The technologies are there. When governments, businesses, scientists and citizens act together, it can be done.
Travelers have a big role to play in this regard. And not just by the travel choices we make.
The greatest leverage we can pull is to exercise our superpower – our beautiful democratic right, where we have it – to vote against governments that not only refuse to take clear climate action now, but actively promote policies that propel us towards a dystopian future. .
It is not political. It’s existential.
We don’t want the moon to be our only vacation option.