Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Earth Day!

“Today’s British Airways flight has left London and is expected to land in Bermuda at 6:30 p.m.,” reported the Royal Gazette this morning. That’s great news for travelers stranded on the island due to last week’s volcanic ash debacle but not so good news for the planet. Is it just me or was that Icelandic volcano trying to tell us something? According to the Wall Street Journal, aircraft in the EU produce an estimated 200 million to 220 million tons of CO2 a year. In the five days of flight restrictions in Europe—caused by the ash plume admitted from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull—aircraft on the ground emitted an estimated 2.7 million tons less CO2 than they would’ve in the air. “Not a lot,” says the Journal, “but enough to roughly cover the annual emissions of Latvia or a month of the emissions from Austria.” Just think about that for a moment. Five days of zero northern European air travel and the planet was saved the annual emissions of a small country. I’m no scientist but I’d consider that a significant improvement. Certainly an unexpected benefit. Sure, thousands of air travelers were inconvenienced worldwide—engagements were missed, events went unattended—but maybe that’s just what we needed to realize the current way of doing things is, dare I say, wrong. Why should executives fly halfway around the world for a business meeting when video conferencing is a viable alternative? It’s greener and cheaper. The slowdown in air travel also made us consider alternative modes of transportation. Instead of flying to the funeral of Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski, who died with dozens of others in a plane crash, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip drove 18 hours. Of course cars are perhaps the environment’s worst offenders but the sentiment of changing one’s mindset is the point. People should start thinking outside the box. Take a train. Walk. For the good of the planet, just use an alternative when you can. I’m not sure what I’ll do to commemorate Earth Day, but if we all do something—anything—it sure would make a huge difference. Because the planet is indeed in our hands.

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