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Are Mass Plane Travel and Mass Tourism Unsustainable?

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/26/are-mass-plane-travel-and-mass-tourism-unsustainable


Thank goodness. We’re going to be able to keep the hoi polloi away so that only the enlightened elite can visit nice places…

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Isn’t it wonderful how the skies are clearing of pollution from the reduced use of planes and automobiles?

Gas has dropped from $2.59/gal. To $2.15/gal. today in Pa.

I like it!

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I finally watched this video I’ve been seeing ads on about the air quality where I live (Los Angeles): ~https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmpwMjL8K7U. It’s very sad to me that the ‘Right to Breath’ clean air isn’t a more obvious thing to more people. Having clean air is not an independent problem from climate change, but it is separable to the point that we could have had really clean air (like a factor of 100 better in the worst places) if we had what I consider reasonable regulation of the airline, auto, and truck (mostly the last two) industry for the last 50 years. And even with the same number of vehicle miles driven and flown and goods moved around (though I think it should be less and I think there should be less people too) we still could have clean air. Dropping CO2 emissions by a factor of 100, that is a much harder matter and will likely require some adjustment in people’s lifestyles.

So I give us a D - yes, our air quality has gotten a lot better since the 70s and 80s when it was horrendous. It still sucks.

As to whether people should fly at all or go on cruise ships at all - I could care less about the cruise ships. Bill Maher did a funny bit a few weeks ago where he said he’d be happy to see them go. I’m not sure we can mandate their vanquishing, but I’d be happy to see a lot more environmental regulation that increases their cost per passenger and drops the demand. For plane travel, I agree with the author that there is likely too much business travel and if there are any silver linings out of the current mess, businesses being forced to try more virtual meetings could be one benefit. I think there are some advantages of people seeing the world, but there are a lot of us and clearly many of us can’t afford to. I’ve been to Europe a couple times, Iran as a kid, Thailand (it wasn’t that crowded where I was). There a bunch of places I’d still like to go where taking a plane is the only feasible option (I don’t see boats as a great replacement). But I’d love love love to see high speed rail displace a lot of land trips of less than 500 miles (or more if the trains are really fast). And more regulation on environmental cost on planes too so for many it may be a less common occurrence, but it is still available. But I don’t relish the idea of giving up on plane travel. In my perfect world, all ground transport is electrified and the limited biofuel we grow would be used for airplanes with very low polluting engines.


I agree with the implementation of high speed rail.

And, shutting down cities to gasoline vehicles. Park outside the city, shuttle in and walk. Or bike, electric scooter, etc.

This would make for healthier population, cleaner air.

The only city I’ve heard of that did this is Zermatt (~https://www.matterhornchalets.com/2017/10/10/electric-taxis-zermatt/). If I had money to burn, I’d go there for vacation (but I’d be flying) assuming there is an end to Corona. But I don’t, so I won’t. Cool that somebody was willing to do it though.

This was a very enjoyable essay. Full of true images, stark and funny at the same time.

EF Schumacher, economist and author of ‘Small is Beautiful’, would go further than Mr. Lofgren. Here are my notes on chapter 5 of ‘Small is Beautiful’:
“5. A Question of Size
Everything has a proper size, usually smaller than it is right now.
Decries idolatry of gigantism. Decries footlooseness, the ability
of masses of people and goods to move large distances and how that
causes slums like Lima Peru. Discusses the economics of small
countries. Unifying or dividing an area has little or no effect on
economic viability. Unity leads to regional inequities like South
Italy, and political problems. Urges production by the masses, not
mass production.”

As applied to the topic of this article, the >90% of us should really “stay home”, and attend to fixing the problems we have here, and getting to better know our near neighbors.

As for high-speed trains, both regular cost-benefit economists and EF Schumacher would say that that is a waste of investment. Most of us should stay home, and the few who need, really really need, to travel long distances can do it by an existing or old-time method. –

This applies too to Congresscritters. Do we really need them flying back and forth every weekend, and making so many laws that affect us? Wouldn’t life be better if most of the important laws and governing was done by our state governments?

Recently I clicked through one of those internet slide shows of a dozen cities that have prohibited automobiles. One was Zermatt. One was Mackinac Island MI. One was Venice Italy; of course there is an obvious reason why cars can’t go there. One was much of Fes, Morocco. I think I read elsewhere that the Cinque Terre towns in Italy do not permit automobiles. I once asked a friend who likes how those towns look how much touristing he would do there, given the amount of up and down hiking required.

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I spent my first 28 years in the San Fernando Valley. I remember “smog days” in the 60’s and 70’s. Sort of like snow days, but not as fun. Yeah, you get to stay home from school, but your eyes and throat burn even indoors… though going outside was like walking into a scene from hell.

Brown skies, low visibility, like fog… but less refreshing.

I went back a couple of years ago for my dad’s funeral, and I noticed it was MUCH better. Which of course means it wasn’t perfect, but at least you couldn’t taste the air when you breathe.

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I’ve been to a couple of academic conferences on Mackinac Island and it was cool to not have any motorized vehicles there. The whole island isn’t really very large so you can walk essentially any place you want to go or ride a bike. They also have horse drawn wagons - especially on the road from the ferry boat and the hotel-conference center that you can use when you have lots of stuff. The main drag there is too touristy for my taste but there are trails on the other side of the island that are worth the visit.

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