When traveling, especially if it’s a big part of your life, it is important to consider the impacts of your actions. By definition traveling gets you out and around to different places where your mere presence creates stimuli in socio-cultural, economic and environmental realms. I hope to cover it all in the future but for now I’ll be discussing just one small aspect the latter – flying.
These thoughts were provoked as I boarded my first long distance, transatlantic, intercontinental flight, in over ten years. I started to think upon all the lessons regarding personal environmental impacts I had studying in university. Racking my brain and doing a little further research gave me these numbers…
A round trip economy flight from Lima to Madrid creates an impact of 1.72 tones of carbon per person. While the average Peruvian, including those who fly frequently, create about the same impact per person during the entire year at 1.64 tones of carbon released. *
From the research and from observing first hand how most people live around the world it's hard to imagine the minuscule amount of environmental impact they have. Combine that sentiment with how the privileged (myself included) zip around with easy, enjoying such conspicuous luxuries and the tremendous impact we have, what are we left with? I'm not mentioning this to bring about guilt, even though I have plenty of that, but, more so, I hope to instill even the tiniest bit of responsibility.
Although I travel and live in a very environmentally friendly matter it is impossible to ignore the ill and potent consequences of flying.
* Data from the statistics department of the World Bank
On average traveling and transport make up a large percentage of our global carbon footprint, some estimates put it at 35%. Global meaning the poor and rich nations are grouped together. Traveling and transit including everything from a public bus ride through town, taking a taxi a few blocks away, a train ride to another city, a flight across the ocean, etc.
I also recognize that calculating carbon footprints is in no way a perfect indicator of an individual’s environmental impact as it ignores local polluting effects as well as potent global climate manipulators like methane. However it is very useful for the purposes of demonstration and discussion as it is widely used, extensively studied, and easy to understand.