Sunday, 30 August 2009

Trains, planes and automobiles


When you consider the scope of climate change, just picking on flying might seem at first as a bit silly. It's like making a big deal about plastic bags when the real problem is the carbon footprint of what you're putting in your hemp, re-usable tote. Flying is not the largest contributor to carbon emissions by any stretch of the imagination. And when you realise that the flight you're considering booking is probably going to go ahead whether you're on it or not, you might feel that you may as well be on it.


The real problem is not personal carbon footprints, but industry and government carbon footprints. But, these are more difficult for us to affect and control. It can be frustrating, but if we don't do anything then it's impossible for anything positive to happen. So what can we do? For most most of us, we can only affect our own personal carbon footprint. And travel is often the biggest contributor to individual carbon emissions.


Likewise, for a climber, transport is often the biggest environmental impact of our sport. UKClimbing published a good article on it recently. You can read it here.


Two years ago, I was still travelling by plane a lot. Long weekends in France or Spain, competitions in Russia, Switzerland, Italy. For several years I was abroad an average of 2 months a year, mostly on short trips like that. Last year, I decided to stop. In the last 12 months I've only taken one flight, so I've made some good improvement. I've been to Southern France several times, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. I travel by van and train now. It does cost a lot more in time and general expenses, but I've started to really enjoy travelling this way. Just last month I was picking up a friend at an airport. I realised I hadn't been inside an airport in nearly a year and I remember how unpleasant the experience generally is. Not that train stations are all that. The last journey I did, coming back from Cannes involved a one hour delay to get onto a slow train that had no air-conditioning in over 30 degree heat! Not very pleasant at all. But, I don't think that travel should be easy. There is a cost to traveling by plane (and I'm not talking about the ticket cost!) and we're just kidding ourselves if we don't realise it. It's unfortunate that the market doesn't reflect the true cost of flying because if it did tickets wouldn't cost £50 but £500.

Audrey at Baume Rousse - in Southern France. One of many climbing areas you can get to by train.




I feel so fortunate to be living in Europe where there is such great and diverse climbing all within relatively access. My home country, the USA also has world class climbing, but everything is so isolated. Yes, us Americans notoriously love to drive long distances, but let's face it, living in London I can be in a number of different countries within one day's drive. Back home, I could drive all day and still be in the middle of cornfields.
When I have to spend more money and take more time to travel by train I don't think of it as being ripped off or that it's inconvenient. It's just the true cost of being able to travel. Like all good things it does involve a sacrifice, but the rewards are worth it. Now if teleporting were viable...

No comments:

Post a Comment