Trains and boats and planes.
November 14, 2001 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Trains and boats and planes. As the international environmental elite flies around the world attending conferences on global warming, earth-friendly toilets, whale saving, etc., these guys pause and figure out that jetting around kerosine-guzzling aircraft makes them part of the very problem they are trying to solve. So they travel to their next conference overland. Good start, fellows. Beyond warming up the air (actually a good thing, if you ask me), jets degrade the environment by needing to be served by city-sized airports, with all their attendent horrors, and by being damned noisy (I'll never forget the lovely silence that followed the air lockdown following 9-11). Besides walking to work, how else can conscientious eco-types put their money where their mouths are?
posted by Faze (32 comments total)
Shower with a friend.
posted by iceberg273 at 9:44 AM on November 14, 2001

bathe with Jesus
posted by gazingus at 9:51 AM on November 14, 2001

Eat a treehugger!
posted by bondcliff at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2001

How anyone can argue air travel has been bad for mankind? Compair global GDP a hundred years before flght, now look at 100 years after.. Check the rates of growth.. Trasportation might be lousy for the enviroment, but it's pretty much universally good for mankind.
posted by Leonard at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2001

That "lovely silence" terrified many people.

I think that as the next generation comes into power, having grown up with the Internet, air travel will become somewhat less popular. The vast majority of air travel is for business, and currently face-to-face meetings are often seen as necessary. They may remain so in some instances but in any economic downturn, cost-cutting will cause companies to look for alternatives to expensive travel. I think you may well be seeing a lot of that right now; the combination of the downturn and the 9/11 disaster has made a lot of companies question every travel decision, with the result that there's a lot less flying going on. I predict the trend will continue over the next fifty years.
posted by kindall at 10:01 AM on November 14, 2001

I loved it when the "lovely silence" was broken by the wing of Navy Fighters passing overhead. That was majestic, and thrilling! I've never seen that many aircraft go by before -- the panes of the house shook.

But, let's compare -- what is the cost to the environment from aircraft, as compared with diesel trucks (without the heavily mandated and inspected maintenance that our modern aircraft gain)?
posted by dwivian at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2001

Trasportation might be lousy for the enviroment, but it's pretty much universally good for mankind.

That global gdp is not shared by everyone. Neither, by the way, are the effects of environmental degradation.
posted by jeffvc at 10:09 AM on November 14, 2001

oops, i mean...
posted by quonsar at 10:11 AM on November 14, 2001

"Carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft per passenger are about the same as each person driving a car the same distance,"
Frightening stuff. I am sure plenty of people would not agree that high speed transport is 'universally good for mankind'. Please explain what humankind benefits from high speed travel that outways the destruction of our life support system, Leonard. GDP is not a good measure of progress.
To answer your question Faze, simply VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET. As many people may have concluded, voting a new government in just provides a new set of cronies for the multinationals to pay off. So, how do you make your voice heard? If you have alot of money, or control the finances of a company, try to insist on ethical investment. The portion of the stock market termed ethical has enjoyed a steady increase in share value throughout the recent uncertainties since the nasdaq crash.
Anyone can cut down on food miles. Most of all educate yourself as to the environmental impact of your lifestyle.
dwivian - diesel info (89k pdf)
posted by asok at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2001

well, aircraft has a very tangible effect on the property value of homes surrounding airports. the closer you are, the worse off you get. (i did a paper on this for a class a while back, though i'm at work now. i believe the rate for homes close to heathrow were something around a 30% drop of the expected appraisal value.)
posted by moz at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2001

here is a good way to check out preconceptions regarding environmental issues in everyday living.
posted by asok at 10:17 AM on November 14, 2001

I support environment-friendly goods, and I use the car to buy those goods. This doesn't make me a hypocrite.

There's a middle ground between living in a tree and burning down the forest.
posted by jragon at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2001

I can't believe air travel makes anything like the impact on the environment that road travel does, not to mention the impact on the mortality rate. I know two people from school who are now dead from car accidents and quite a few injured. I'm sure others know far more.

I'm still waiting for this future of extensive government-funded public transport and the death of the car. I live right next to a main road and am so used to the sound of car engines it no longer registers. Until now. Shut up out there.
posted by Summer at 10:34 AM on November 14, 2001

Yank anathema No.1: Public transport!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2001

diesel isn't bad at all. it's actually a great substitute. the only thing you really give up is power. you can see the epa's view on diesel here. and, if you don't like diesel, you can try a four stroke motorcycle or scooter. you'll also qualify for those high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, where applicable, slashing your travel times.
posted by mich9139 at 11:15 AM on November 14, 2001

I think that as the next generation comes into power, having grown up with the Internet, air travel will become somewhat less popular.

Because of the Internet, I travel by air MUCH MORE. I meet new and interesting people in distant cities and countries online, and airfare (even pre-9/11) is cheap enough to make weekend visits worthwhile.

Although my current position does not require travel, I envision my next job will and the bulk of those trips will be initiated through online communications. Nothing beats closing deals like face-to-face encounters.
posted by mischief at 11:19 AM on November 14, 2001

Hey now! It's not our fault our country is so damn big, or that most of our cities were built after the car was invented.

With diesel you also give up easy winter starting (to some extent) and ease of finding filling stations (again, to some extent). Diesel trucks aren't subject to the same emission requirements as cars, so they tend to spew a fair number of particulates.

And word on the motorcycle idea, especially in California. I am always suprised by how stressed I get when I commute by car - sitting in traffic sucks ass.
posted by jaek at 11:24 AM on November 14, 2001

Intercontinental zeppelin service!
posted by darukaru at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2001

Observe Buy Nothing Day, on November 23, 2001.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2001

whoops...sorry about that double.

other interesting ideas are continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and higher voltage vehicular systems capable of shutting a vehicle off instead of idling, with a 42volt battery vs the now standard 12volt.

here's another nice report on alternative fuels. it is long, though.
posted by mich9139 at 11:35 AM on November 14, 2001

jaek, it's all about infrastructure. the u.s. does not even have the european diesel standards implemented yet, let alone the amount of filling stations. as for the motorcycles, california is the only state that still allows lane splitting. just don't tell anyone that the majority of riders there aren't operating air-cooled engines anymore, ok? get a bike, and you'd be surprised how much more relaxed you'd be commuting on one. sure, there's some new sources of stress, but you adapt to it. they're cheap to insure, easy to park, cheap to purchase, get around 50 miles per gallon, and except for constant stops at hooters, meth dealings, and eminent weight gains coupled with a desire to wear leather (warning on last link), the life style isn't that bad, either.
posted by mich9139 at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2001

it's ironic you call public transportation a "yank" anathema, miguel; "yanks" in the US are usually considered people from the northern cities, like boston, new york, or chicago -- all of which have long histories of mass transit use.
posted by moz at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2001

They can all go kill themselves. The only people who don't pollute are the dead. Until then, you're as guilty as the rest of us

:) for the humor impaired. sorta.
posted by jammer at 1:54 PM on November 14, 2001

They can not have children.
posted by culberjo at 2:24 PM on November 14, 2001

I can't say enough good things about trains. Yet I know that we're often constrained as to the amount of time we have to get somewhere - I took the train from New York to Spokane and it took almost four days, which is half a vacation for most people. (But I had so much fun and met interesting people and saw a real live bear by the side of the tracks!)

But I think that if high speed rail could get its act together, it could be a viable alternative to taking air shuttles between major cities. Especially if security mesures increases time needed at the airport. The Acela NY-Washington route only takes a little over two hours.
posted by kittyloop at 3:21 PM on November 14, 2001

Yank anathema No.1: Public transport!

Surely you don't expect us to mingle so with the hoi polloi?!? I mean, they're loud, and weird, and often smell....
posted by rushmc at 3:55 PM on November 14, 2001

Bart: Oh, recycling is useless, Lis. Once the sun burns out, this planet is doomed. You're just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.
posted by signal at 4:51 PM on November 14, 2001

You could, also, drive silly, little cars:

"an enormously low cx-rate of 0.1 which, in combination with the use of light-weight material such as aluminium and carbon, will help reduce the consumption to a maximum of 1 litre of diesel for 100 kilometres"
posted by cx at 7:47 PM on November 14, 2001

Yeah...a few years ago I was invited to a conference on eco-tourism in Melbourne Australia, my home town, which I would have been paying $1600 to attend if I hadn't been invited. I sat there and listened to a bunch of globe-hopping academics tell me off, when I didn't even own a car and hadn't been on a plane since I was seven.

Melbourne has the largest tram system in the English-speaking world. They'd probably used up more natural resources getting there so as to tell me off than I'd consumed in my entire lifetime.
posted by chrisgregory at 7:56 PM on November 14, 2001

Yank anathema No.1: Public transport!

I`m a yank (in the international sense of the term [OT] Is Yank an offensive word, or is it OK? [/OT]) and I LOVE public transport. I wish my home region of Los Angeles would get something going. Where I live now, we have an amazing system and I miss it anytime I go home.

OTOH, the one overnight rail trip I took in the U.S. was horrid. Three screaming brats sitting behind us while their mother screamed at them to be quiet. Long way to go before Amtrak matches the European or Japanese rail systems.
posted by chiheisen at 9:30 PM on November 14, 2001

I have a friend, an Australian photographer (quite well known - took the photo used on the cover of the Olympics edition of Sports Illustrated magazine), who had a lot of hassles in LA because he tried to walk around the place. Somehow, this was considered to be unacceptable and eccentric behaviour.

In Australia, probably in particular in Melbourne, the street and public transport, like the trams, are the hub of social life.

Where else do you get to meet and mix with people?
posted by chrisgregory at 12:36 AM on November 15, 2001

Where else do you get to meet and mix with people?

Umm...people do that?
posted by rushmc at 7:06 AM on November 15, 2001

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