Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Morning Commute and Earth Day 2010

Have you ever asked yourself if all this flying here and flying there is necessary? I know. I’m going to sound like the dinosaur I really am, but hear me out, please!

Business executives have taken the morning commute to a whole new level. Vacations seem to get farther and farther afield. It's a kind of snobbery that lets us into the club that has the wherewithal to go farther and farther afield.  It takes—in some cases—half the vacation to GET “there.” It used to be that jobs were close by, easily reached within a half hour or less. It was a BIG DEAL to go visit a national park. (Did you watch the Ken Burns series on our national parks? If not, you missed an incredible series. I encourage you not to miss it when it comes around again!)

Out here JOTOLR, we see the remnants of the “morning commute” every day. They linger over our farm, long after the planes have gone beyond the horizon. Every morning, as I look toward the eastern sky, it is streaked by unnatural lines of vapor that mar the view. If you think that vapor is simply WATER vapor, think again.. “Commuting” produces massive pollution which drops down over all of us, leaves ugly contrails in an otherwise pristine sky, and nobody, it seems, questions why we keep doing this.

Why, with, modern technology—like video conferencing, for example--are business executives still dashing back and forth across the skies, using up fuel, and polluting the world with noise and fumes? Why aren’t they saving money, staying put, and using the miracles of modern communication to conduct business? Why are vacationers seeking destinations that are farther and farther away, more difficult and painful to reach? So far away, in fact, that “getting there” all too often takes most of the so-called vacation, but the joy out of going at all.

The bottleneck that Iceland’s volcanic eruption has created should be a wake-up call. Of the flights that were cancelled, I wonder how many passengers could have simply stayed home and done business with new technologies, or chosen a vacation closer to home. I wonder how many vacationers, sleeping in the airports, thought about the train tickets they could have had, to potentially satisfying destinations that were much closer to home.

Yes, we have traveled to the Far East, to Australia, to New Zealand, to Hong Kong, to Rome, but, in recent years, we have also declined free trips to London, Paris, Prague, and the Carribbean because the discomfort of air travel now outweighs any scenic value of going in the first place.  Furthermore, it’s too stressful. When MM and I traveled in the Far East, we went by freighter. We were one of six passengers on The American Mail. When we went to Australia, we were the only passengers. The Lemnos was a Swedish ship, carrying cargo from the Far East to Australia. It was on its own mission and we simply “caught a ride.” I don’t argue that it was an adventure back in the earliest years of the 1970’s!

And, I am sure, most people who are still sitting in the airport waiting to get home, could call this latest air debacle “an adventure.” But I wonder if it isn’t time, to re-think this whole travel game. Maybe this Earth Day 2010 should be the beginning of some serious reflection on the topic of over-selling travel. Maybe light rail should be on the table; maybe high speed rail could breathe new life into domestic sightseeing…maybe video conferencing with 3-D glasses, would make the experience so life-like that nobody would WANT to take the sardine flight to North Carolina daily! Maybe we’d get some sense back into this escalating game!


  1. I agree with you about video conferencing but if you lived in the UK you'd understand why people jet off to the sun for their holidays. 2 years running , rain every day for 8 weeks over the summer. We do have sun,(as currently) but the weather is never reliable. If we had the money even I would be tempted to to find some reliable warmth and sun once in a while.

  2. Really good points, Elora. My partner travels some for her company and she is desperately trying to get her company to enter the world of webinars, etc. In fact, they are starting their first webinars next month! She has been working hard to get them up and running. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I agree too, all this travel would sure cut expenses and help out. Enjoy your posts. Linda

  4. I have come to hate air travel. I was spoiled back in the days when I flew coast-to-coast on United Airlines' Ocean to Ocean Service on business frequently. Hot meals, spacious seating, lemon-scented steaming hot towels after meals, and ice cream bars for snacks. Now it feels as if the airlines are doing you a favor by cramming you into their cattle cars.