January 13, 2014

Stay Where You Are

Nothing can lower your carbon footprint as much as staying where you are.

I hear a lot of people saying that someone should do something about global warming. I don't hear a lot of people saying that they are voluntarily eliminating non-essential travel.

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the creation of that problem, but that seems to be a novel concept for those who selfishly continue climate-harming behaviours while crossing exotic destinations off their 'bucket list'.

A small minority of voluntary staycationers are starting to speak out. There have been people polled in Europe that go so far as to suggest that taking a flying holiday is immoral and should be stopped altogether. It may sound extreme, but the problem we face is extreme.

Tourism is one of the world's largest and fastest growing industries, and it has a huge, rapidly growing carbon footprint that must be addressed before permanent damage is done to our planet's vital systems.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and environmental groups have singled out air travel as accounting for 60% of tourism greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, tens of thousands of commercial jet planes generate more than 600 million tones of CO2 per year. These numbers are projected to increase in the coming years, raising questions about what we are really doing.

Why are so many people flying more often and farther than ever before to do pretty much the same things they do while at home? Can the travel and tourism sector be considered a beneficial activity? Is the promise of zero impact Eco-tourism even possible, or is it all industry greenwashing to protect profits?

A 2007 paper titled Tourism Feels The Heat Of Global Warming concluded, "If the goal is to effectively decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the travel and tourism sector, there seems to be no way around curbing the growth of the industry." In other words, we will just have to stay home more often.

Today one of the most radical things you can do is be happily content to stay where you are. It may also be one of the most beneficial things you can do for others and the planet.


  1. Anonymous1/13/2014

    To be honest, I sometimes long to travel. I would love to hug a giant redwood or see the Rocky Mountains. When I feel a longing to travel, I remind myself that my grandmother never saw the ocean, or went more than a few hundred miles from home. (She once visited Niagara Falls) It is enough to know those places exist and I can access them in ways that past generations couldn't have imagined.

    1. Miss Marla,

      It must be that most humans living (or that have ever lived) haven't travelled much farther from home than your grandmother did, and perhaps not even that far. While it is true there are interesting people and places to be experienced in far away locations, it is just as true in our own local areas.

      In the past decade I have not ventured farther than about 100 km (60 miles) from home. It has been amazing getting to know the local area and learn about its secrets and treasures, and there have been many.

      Linda calls it having "tidal pool eyes". If you walk by a tidal pool on the beach and take a quick glance you will see nothing, think the pool is empty, and move on. But if you stop and spend some time, your perception shifts and you see that the water is teeming with life.

  2. I must admit, there are a few places I would love to see that would require air travel. However, if I never get to go, I won't be too sad. I can look at beautiful photographs, read great books, soak up culture in my city, and go camping and hiking in gorgeous natural places close to home.

    1. Nicole,

      There is so much to do right where we are.

  3. Anonymous1/14/2014

    My Mom and her husband travel at least twice a year. Their home is extremely cluttered, they can barely walk freely in their house and it's just a place for sleep, TV watching and food in the evening after work. They never do anything else there. When I ask why they travel and what they do during their stay, I get the answer that it's the only possible way to feel relaxed and that they don't do anything, just eat and sleep. They absolutely don't care about taking a swim and being out for the sake of the warm sun.

    I guess most people would not travel so much if the were pleased with their home life, if they felt at home in their everyday life. It's typical for western culture to seek wholeness and well-being in something outside oneself.

    Recently Mom asked me where I wanted to travel when I soon turn 40. I answered "To your soon decluttered and cleaned summer house outside the city and the table in the garden there with fresh fish you have caught in the nearby see."
    I did'nt get an answer to this, the energy cost of decluttering is probably higher for them than paying for a trip abroad. So sad.


    1. Eva,

      A lot of vacation travel must be spawned by a desire to escape stressful lives back home - "leave it all behind". Perhaps if we were all happier with where we are at and what we are doing, we would not need to vacation and travel as much.

      As far as decluttering is concerned, I think it is like public speaking for most people - they would rather die than do it.

      Happy soon-to-be 40.


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