UK-based activist group “Plane Stupid” not only thinks that aviation is “mostly uneccessary,” but that hopping on a plane is “one of the most irresponsible things” someone could do, environmentally speaking (source: this month’s adbusters). As an avid traveler, I’m inclined to disagree.
Before I get railed for being anti-environment, allow me to explain – anyone who has read my blog for even a few posts knows that when it comes to environmental issues, I lean way left. I won’t deny that air travel has a significantly detrimental affect on our air; but before we start attacking a mode of transport that has no reasonable alternative, why don’t we go after one that does? Focusing on grounding airplanes when our cities are choking with auto exhaust seems hugely misguided. Let’s get people out of cars and onto bikes before we start trying to pull them out of the air.
The Plane Stupid movement ingores the socially beneficial aspects of air travel. While autos and the urban sprawl that makes them necessary disconnect communities, airplanes bring people and worlds together. I’ll agree with PS’s argument that many intra-Euro flights could be replaced with train rides, but overall, our planet is a big place.
Unless we’re prepared to revert to trans-atlantic boat rides, the plane is here to stay – and for the better, I think. When air travel was expensive and infrequent, people knew less about the world, they had less opportunities to experience other cultures. Travelling abroad allows us to turn everything we know on its head, and become more cosmopolitan citizens. Cheap air travel allows more people to share in this overwhelmingly positive experience.
While Plane Stupid would discount my assertion about “cheap” air travel and counter that air travel only benefits the rich, I would point them to dedicated travelers who scrape at shitty jobs just to save enough for that month living in a foreign country on a shoestring (check all the bloggers at bootsnall.com). PS might also point to other “problematic” aspects of air travel:
The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the impact of aviation on human health. Long term (5-30 years) exposure to air traffic noise levels averaging 65 to 75 decibels can increase blood pressure levels and the risk of hypertension. Sleep disturbance can lead to fatigue, hypertension, greater risk of heart and respiratory problems, poor concentration in work and school, increased risk of accidents, depression, anxiety and higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse (Greenskies). [plane stupid: reasons]
Sorry guys, don’t buy it – I grew up in the flight path of an international airport. No high blood pressure, I just learned to love the sight of contrails.