Is Your Air Travel Worth It?

Ask yourself the next time you’re planning to fly to a faraway land: will my visit help that place? Look past your tourism dollars, that might, or might not help the local economy. What authentic good are you bringing to the land and its ecosystem and to the culture of the people living there?

Or flip that question around. Will it help you?

When my friends return home from trips to Europe, South America, China, Africa or Australia, after they’ve swiped through all the photos on their smart phones overusing


Air Travel – the clean, picturesque view of it.

adjectives like cool, beautiful and awesome, they usually end with ‘you gotta see it.’ They may be talking about Machu Picchu, the Great Wall, the Coliseum, the Great Barrier Reef or the Serengeti. But, when I ask them if the experience changed them, if it enlightened or inspired them in any way, their words usually fail them.

Given the expense of air travel vacations in dollars, time and discomfort, shouldn’t you come back a better, or even just a happier person? And, shouldn’t the cost to the environment be balanced out with something more than iPhone snapshots?

Some facts about the environmental impact of air travel:

  • Air travel passengers in 2019 totaled 4.5 billion.
  • Globally there are 110,400 flights each and everyday.
  • Worldwide airliners spew 915 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
  • Aviation is responsible for 12% of the total CO2 emissions from transportation.

But, what about the economic impact if people fly less.


Jet Contrail: Pollution seen in the right light.

Aviation generates $704.4 billion of GDP per year, supporting 65.5 million jobs worldwide. As with all the other massive economic impacts of eliminating fossil fuel and drastically decreasing our CO2 emissions, the counter-question is what’s the economic cost if we fail to address the climate crisis?

Failure cannot be measured in the 100s of trillions of dollars that will be lost due to floods, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, rising sea levels and the warming of the oceans. If we don’t stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels – which at 414 ppm today is the highest in 800,000 years – by the middle of this century, the cost will be counted in the millions of lives lost.

So the next time you’re planning to fly to a faraway land, ask yourself: Will my visit help that place? Will it help me? Is the cost worth it?

My suggestion: enjoy the place you live and invest your time, energy and money into making it a better place.

About DaveRhodyWriting

Training with Al Gore at the Climate Reality Project is just the beginning of my new commitment to Climate Activism. My previous incarnation began in 1983 when, just for the hell of it, I ran from Los Angeles to San Francisco. That lone adventure opened a door that led to a thirty-two year commitment to RhodyCo Productions. We produced running and cycling events, big and small, in and around San Francisco, raising millions for Bay Area non-profits. '468 events - 1.5 million finishers' was our final tagline. But, writing has always been my first love. I've been a baker, a pizza maker, a business owner, a waiter, a social worker, a sex educator, strawberry picker, a seminarian, a race director and now a climate activist and a writer. My first novel 'Dakota White' (2007, iUniverse) is available on Amazon. Find me on QUORA, writing under my pen name, 'Abbey Rhodes'. Or on Twitter @DaveRhody
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1 Response to Is Your Air Travel Worth It?

  1. Great piece, Dave. Part of coming to better appreciate our (individual and collective) impact on the climate is considering the invisible/externalized costs of our actions, practices, and habits — and, accordingly, making our decisions more mindfully. I engage with climate deniers all the time who suggest that if Bernie Sanders or Al Gore have a problem with carbon emissions, they can simply stop flying — else they’re hypocrites. But that’s just an excuse on the part of the accuser to avoid having exactly the type of hard, nuanced conversations with oneself that you address here.


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