Reconciling Sustainability & Experiences of a Lifetime

Machu Picchu

I’ve never really had the urge to travel the world before and it hasn’t really played on my mind that I might be missing out…until now that is.

There is a certain level of inspiration to be found in the amazing performances in the Olympics right now and in team GB in particular, but this is not the only thing sparking my desire to make more of the opportunities that life presents. I have a friend who is currently touring the United States while posting a series of incredible photo albums of her adventures on Facebook. The photos themselves are pretty amazing but it must be so much more mind-blowing to actually see these sights with your own eyes.

My dilemma comes from my desire to live a sustainable life and how one can reconcile this desire with the desire to see the world, even if only once in a lifetime. It is a tough problem and I am not currently sure how to approach it but I’ve got some thoughts on it that I’ll share with you.

Motivation Made In Nature

I guess the biggest justification I can find for flying around the world to experience the wonders that it has to offer is that it is only ever going to give me a whole load more motivation to continue my push towards a life with as little impact on the environment as possible.

It will push me harder to spread the kinds of messages and behaviours that are required in the general population if we are to meet out goals as a country and as a planet to prevent catastrophic increases in temperature.

I would hate to begrudge anyone the chance to see things that you just cannot see in the UK. Personally I would love to see the Amazon rainforest so that I can experience its importance in real life and to see the conservation work that is going on there. Also, I have always wanted to marvel at the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands and trek to Machu Picchu which I imagine to be one of the most incredible sites and sights that you can experience.

Lifetime Vs. Annual Carbon Footprints

It may sound like I am talking myself into a trip but I think it is important not to confine our horizons based on a carbon footprint for any 12 month period. In an ideal world we would of course maintain a low impact lifestyle year after year but if we are to look on such a trip as a once in a lifetime event, it gives us more of an allowance because we can, in effect, spread the effect over a number of years.

I know that it does not quite work like that and that emissions now are not necessarily equivalent to emissions later and this is one of the main areas where I struggle. We need to be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions starting now and this is not in alignment with a flight half way around the world.

The Rights of the Rich?

Now I certainly don’t consider myself to be rich in Western terms but if you compare my income and lifestyle to that of people living in much of the world then I am certainly well off. This is another good reason why travelling across the globe to enjoy a “holiday” in South America does not lend itself to a fair and equitable distribution of greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words – should anyone be able to pollute to a greater extent just because they can afford it when others have carbon footprints that are so much smaller?

Putting Restrictions on Life

I am pretty torn to be honest because while sustainable living is, by necessity, restrictive to a certain extent, you can overcome most of these restrictions by enjoying greener alternatives; you can use public transport instead of driving, you can enjoy healthy vegetables instead of eating meat every day and you can try to avoid excess packaging in shops.

But it isn’t really possible to see Machu Picchu in the UK (except in photos) and you are not likely to see flamingos in their natural habitat like you can on the Galapagos Islands unless global warming really kicks in!

So is this just something we have to accept? Do we simply have to refrain from travelling anywhere that requires a plane to get there?

What do you think? Is it acceptable to travel by air for any reason or should we keep our feet firmly on the ground? Be as honest as you like…

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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