After nearly two years of avoiding flying we just returned from our Christmas holiday in Thailand and Australia. I really struggled to make the decision to go, but in the end the emotional need to visit my wife’s parents and my brother’s family outweighed my environmental conscience.
I was worried that I might regret it, but I don’t. I certainly feel bad about the environmental toll of our trip, but never in my life have I valued time with family more than this Christmas. I found it incredibly difficult to leave and just wish that we didn’t all live so far apart or that there was a sustainable way of visiting each other.
The reality is that our increasingly international lives are both positive and negative at the same time. We gain the ability to see different places, to meet great people, to share ideas and expand our cultural horizons. However, in doing so we build lives in which our family, friends and careers are spread around the world in a web that can never be untangled and which forces us to either accept the physical, financial, and environmental burden of long distance travel, or to accept that we will see little or nothing of our loved ones abroad.
Times have changed. When my great-uncle Colin emigrated to Australia about 70 years ago and fell in love with an Australian girl, the only way to visit his family in the UK was to spend weeks on a ship, meaning that he would see almost nothing of his family until his later life when air travel was affordable.
These days, we are incredibly lucky that we can get to almost anywhere on the planet within a day or two, enabling us to see friends and family frequently if we can afford it. But we also now know that in doing so we are destroying the planet and the future lives of others. We are forced to make a clear choice between our self-interest and the greater good – a choice that none of us want to have to make. We cannot have it both ways, at least not yet, and many of us simply have to be honest with ourselves about where our priorities lie.