Travel and the environment: can we see the world without killing the planet?

Watkins Glen State Park, New York. Taken on a family vacation in 2006.

Two things I’ve been thinking and reading* a lot about lately are climate change–and how we can mitigate this already-occurring disaster by developing more sustainable ways to live–and travel. I’m having trouble reconciling my feelings about them.

On the personal level, my brightest-burning desire right now is to see the world. I’ve been outside the Northeastern US only a few times in my life, and I really want to see more of both my own country and other countries. I love New England–in fact, I’m pretty sure my veins run with maple syrup–and I know I want to settle down here eventually. This is my home, my community. The land I feel in my bones. I know that’s a gift: to be so connected to a place in this age of disconnection and displacement.

But I know I can’t settle down without experiencing at least a few of the natural beauties, and the cultures, of other places. I’m still working out the practicalities, but it’s definitely something I want to do.

And yet. I know that traveling, especially by airplane, has a huge carbon footprint.**

There’s just no way that regular international or even intra-national travel is sustainable–even at current levels, let alone if everyone in the US started doing it.

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