Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
After nearly a decade of accumulating frequent flyer miles on credit cards, we finally did it. We saved up enough miles to travel overseas. We chose a country with exquisite landscapes and timed the dream trip to correspond with my fiftieth birthday.
And then I began reading about the impact of air travel on climate change. I discovered that, of the many carbon-producing personal lifestyle choices, plane flight has one of the biggest footprints by far.
Avoiding just one transatlantic roundtrip flight has more carbon-reducing benefit than buying green energy, replacing a typical car with a hybrid, switching to a plant-based diet, or being fastidious with washing clothes in cold water and hanging them out to dry, recycling, or upgrading every single light bulb (according to a 2017 Lund University meta-analysis of 39 peer-reviewed articles). Only living car-free or having one fewer child demonstrated greater carbon-reducing impact!
Forgo the trip?
This is where the environmentalist rubber hits the road – when personal sacrifice is involved. I must confess, I felt conflicted about completely abandoning this trip of a lifetime. Perhaps there was a way to travel and be environmentally responsible at the same time.
A little on-line research revealed that carbon offsetting is available not only for corporate and governmental entities, but also for individuals who want to purchase carbon credits. A credit = “a financial unit of measurement that represents the removal of 2,205 lbs of carbon from the atmosphere.” This involves investing money in carbon-verified projects that help sequester carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting the emissions from my plane flight.
I found Cool Effect, a non-profit that provides an online platform, a type of Crowdfunding, for such carbon offsetting. They offer a calculator that helps you determine how much to donate to compensate for your travel, as well as a range of international projects to invest in that serve “climate, community and biodiversity.”
Granted, it’s better to not step on a plane at all. But, short of cessation, we can take the constructive steps of reducing personal long distance travel and purchasing carbon credits. There are reasons other than a pandemic for us to reevaluate our relationship with flying.