Is travelling ethical?

Travel Forums General Talk Is travelling ethical?

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1. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1581 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

I've always been keen on making "green" choices - trying to have the most fuel-efficient cars, reducing my "consumption" where I can. Now this seems to be an idea at the forefront, with everyone trying to go green and governments declaring "climate emergencies".

I currently have no flights booked, and I'm wondering whether I ought to keep it that way?

I've made other changes where I can. I'm buying an electric car. I have no kids (apparently the biggest environmental-impact choice you make), no pets, I'm trying to switch out red meat for white meat and make more veggie choices. We have solar panels at home and have tried to find ways to reduce our usage, eg LED lights.

With travel it's harder to make green choices without making sacrifices. Okay, I've never taken domestic flights, using ground transport instead. Take-off is clearly more of a fuel burn than cruising, so long haul makes more sense than local hops.

This year most of my travels are domestic trips in the UK. With the electric car coming, the plan is to make best use of it. It costs an arm and a leg to buy, but then the "fuel" is virtually free, so I'm going to be paying off the purchase cost of it for a while but can do as many miles as I like. This is pushing us into more trips to Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and places we can take a short ferry to.

The thought of booking a flight makes me feel conflcted. Anyone else have similar feelings? Should I go for a compromise approach, and just reduce my flying? Does that make me a hypocrite and I should just stop completely?

2. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 239 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Ethics and a debate: You know debate is a favorite of mine, right?

Seriously, a great topic here.

Positive and thoughtful changes on your part, but if more people flew less what does that mean to the people who rely on money from tourists?

I really feel it is next to impossible to remove ourselves from consumerism, which is what the real problem is, even when done ethically. Add to that a world where time and space are no longer obstacles and now we are faced with a reliance on "stuff" from anywhere and often at any cost. We are all faced with a progress paradox.

Will small changes make a difference on a whole? Or, is the mark of continued progress and reliance (the base of the world's economy) too deep at this stage?

Andy, may I ask why you are switching to more white meat over red meat?

3. Posted by Peter (Admin 6704 posts) 2w 1 Star this if you like it!

You're lucky you're in the UK! You have so many places that can easily be reached by ground transport. In Australia, pretty much anywhere will require a flight.

Have you looked at carbon offsets? I've bought them a few times on flights I've been on. Helped a little with the environmental guilt I feel when flying.

Road to roam is probably right that whatever we do is a very small difference on a global part, but then .. it's all our small individual actions put together that have helped us get into this mess in the first place. So I think there is power in individuals. And if we all do something small, it all adds up to a giant change. The world is progressing towards cleaner fuels, more efficient vehicles, etc.. and this is in large part because the demand for it has been growing.

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1581 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Quoting road to roam

Andy, may I ask why you are switching to more white meat over red meat?

I'd read it has a much lower carbon footprint. A quick google gave me this, which says it's about a quarter of the impact.

5. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1581 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Peter

The world is progressing towards cleaner fuels, more efficient vehicles, etc.. and this is in large part because the demand for it has been growing.

I've read that around 500 companies have battery-electric aircraft in development. I guess that ranges from air-taxis upwards but at least some regional short haul flights should be available as electric before too long.

I think for long haul the only solution is jets powered by fully synthetic fuels, which are made using renewable energy. I can't see them getting the weight of batteries down enough to power long haul that way.

Shipping is getting better too. I've been on an electric tour boat in Norway, and I hear one of the short crossings between Denmark and Sweden has had its diesel engines swapped out for a battery-electric system. The new CalMac ferries for Scottish islands are being built which will have hybrid powertrains - I'm not sure if that means plug-in or just mainly running on gas rather than diesel.

Flights are my main hangup. I'll think carefully before booking one now.

6. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 882 posts) 1w 1 Star this if you like it!

There's an awful lot of BS 'Greenwash' around. Far too many people shouting about stuff they don't understand or things they only understand a tiny amount of.
I do remember people in the late 70s saying East Anglia (Where I now live) would be under at least a foot of water (Sea) by the year 2000. There's an idiot American politician who swears the world will end by 2031, and Al Gore (whose made a fortune from 'Greenwash' products) guaranteed the world would be one big desert by now.
I could go on about how un-ecological modern cars are (even if their emissions are low, they're now a disposable product which is only good for the manufacturers) or the terrible pollution/enormous carbon footprint involved in Lithium extraction, but I won't.

So whilst I'm entirely against wasting resources and not intentionally polluting etc, and always have been, I really don't follow any of the latest buzzword greenwash issues.

The bottom line is that 3rd world countries must go through the industrial stage to generate enough money to raise their population out of poverty. At the moment if they opened a factory in say India or Mali producing the most toxic substance known to man, they'd have a queue of a thousand people looking for a job on the day it was announced.
Research shows that when the population reach a certain financial level (IIRC around $5k) they start to take much more interest in conservation and reducing pollution.
That will have a far greater effect on the global climate than anything you or I could do to change anything (positively or negatively).

7. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 882 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Quoting AndyF

I think for long haul the only solution is jets powered by fully synthetic fuels, which are made using renewable energy. I can't see them getting the weight of batteries down enough to power long haul that way.

You may find this interesting ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0W1ZZYIV8o

8. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 1309 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Interesting thread! Although it's possible to get around NZ without air-travel and in electric cars or on public transport, the nearest country (Fiji, Tonga, eastern Australia) is over three hours away by plane so my carbon footprint is even larger than my size thirteens! :(

9. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 882 posts) 1w 1 Star this if you like it!

Quoting Borisborough

the nearest country (Fiji, Tonga, eastern Australia) is over three hours away by plane so my carbon footprint is even larger than my size thirteens! :(

That's some serious canoe paddling there...

10. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1581 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Andrew Mack

The bottom line is that 3rd world countries must go through the industrial stage to generate enough money to raise their population out of poverty. At the moment if they opened a factory in say India or Mali producing the most toxic substance known to man, they'd have a queue of a thousand people looking for a job on the day it was announced.
Research shows that when the population reach a certain financial level (IIRC around $5k) they start to take much more interest in conservation and reducing pollution.
That will have a far greater effect on the global climate than anything you or I could do to change anything (positively or negatively).

I'm not sure that allowing the developing world to make the mistakes that the developed world previously made is a viable plan. It may be fair, but it still stuffs the planet.

Thanks for the video link, I just found time to watch it and it was very interesting. I think the answer is that there is no quick and simple answer, for the West or the developing world, or for generation or demand. The best we can hope for is to nibble away at the problem on all fronts. Ultimately, whatever your views on climate change and its politicisation, we've got a growing population and a finite planet to live on. And we get precisely one shot at it before extinction. So I'd prefer to err on the side of caution, and try to do my bit by making more sustainable choices.

I can do this in daily life with various small choices, but the one I can't improve upon incrementally is flying. Except by abstaining from it. I think my solution is to try to stop short-haul flights for now, since they're the easiest places to see overland, the easiest places to see later on, and the best hope of getting a greener power method. And for long-haul, I'm going to reduce them - I've previously travelled long-haul a couple of times a year, so I'm going to try to make it once every few years instead. Yay, less jetlag! :) More trips by electric car or train, or ship although they're a bit suspect in the green stakes.