A response to the previous post, “Travel: an environmental dilemma”
by Jean Franklin
My husband Carl, a physics teacher and meteorologist, has known about climate change since 1970, but thought it would not become a problem in his lifetime. Then shockingly, about 10 years ago, scientists announced that Earth is warming much faster than expected.
We talked it over, facing the facts. As American baby boomers, we had consumed more fossil fuels than any generation in history, and at age 60 we had enough discretionary income to continue harming the environment for 30 more years. We lived in a 3,000-square-foot home and drove two cars to work. We were planning to buy a small RV and tour the Western national parks.
In 2007 we decided to change our lives. We have now lowered our carbon footprint more than 60 percent. Our big decision was to scrap the RV idea and buy solar panels for our bookstore and a Prius. In 2010, we moved within a mile of downtown, where we could walk to work, church, and restaurants. Through a combination of planning and luck, we sold our large house and bought a 1,000-square-foot cottage.
We also changed our thinking about travel. We have not been on a plane since before 9/11. Not only does it take massive amounts of fossil fuel to lift 500 pounds (two people plus luggage) 30,000 feet into the air and propel us thousands of miles, but the jet’s contrails, frozen water vapor, act as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Since we live in paradise—Western North Carolina—we vacation within a few miles of home. We visit our children in Durham and Atlanta, but otherwise, we like to park our car at a hotel in a quaint mountain town and simply stroll, enjoying restaurants, plays, and concerts.
We travel to fabulous places through books and documentaries. It does not break our hearts to miss seeing the Serengheti or the Great Barrier Reef; it breaks our hearts that millions of African people and elephants are starving due to acute droughts, that large sections of Australia’s great reef are dead due to overheated sea water. Some Americans say, “My small efforts won’t help,” but scientists beg to differ, and beg for our help. The game is not over. Battle fatigued climate scientists say that everything we do will make the future better.
Note: Some people who fly purchase carbon offsets—for example, from groups giving away efficient cookstoves to prevent native people from cutting down trees in rainforests for firewood. Google “carbon offsets” and browse the many options.
Jean and Carl Franklin, retired teachers and co-owners of Black Mountain Books, teach and write about climate change.