And although many car trips are hard to avoid, given 60 years of infrastructure development, a lot of the air travel is unnecessary -- and concentrated among the so-called one percent. Only about half the country takes as much as one flight a year; I’m willing to bet that virtually every U.S. citizen gets in a passenger car at least once per annum. And while most of those car trips are the business of everyday life -- getting to work, procuring food, etc. -- most of those flights are either vacations, or elite workers flitting to conferences and business meetings....I have a number of arguments against travel, so it's easy for me to adopt one more. I have thought about — but thus far resisted — gibing about global warming when the topic of travel comes up in conversation. I sometimes imagine dialogues in which someone asks me — as people so often do — if I've got travel plans for summer/winter/spring break and I claim to be doing my part in the fight against global warming, or someone goes on about their wonderful destinations and I puncture the mood by inquiring about the morality of needless carbon emissions.
Giving up air travel and overnight delivery is much more personally costly for the public intellectuals who write about this stuff than giving up a big SUV....
If we’re going to get serious about greenhouse gasses, we need to get serious about air travel. Going to a distant conference should attract the kind of scorn among the chattering classes that is currently reserved for buying a Hummer.
By the way, I love seeing McArdle use the word "flitting" — "elite workers flitting to conferences and business meetings." I used that word yesterday in my response to Elon Musk's "hyperloop":
I believe the truly modern technological solution is not to travel at all. Overcome the need to have the body go anywhere. That's the most efficient answer to our transportation problems. Musk's tube would supposedly get people back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Why? Pick a city. Stop this senseless flitting from one city to another.In the comments at that post, mikee said:
A late 1970s anthology of short story Science Fiction included a story describing Althouse's ideal.I said:
Instant video/audio/text/data communication between people and total availability of all information resources via something quite like a super duper internet led to the rich becoming isolationists in the extreme, to the point that a woman forced to travel finds herself flying over the Himalayas and sees nothing worth the effort of observing.
With great introversion comes great disassociation.
@mikee I think it's a limitation in the capacity to observe that makes people think they need to rove. If you really paid attention to your surroundings, you could be endlessly fascinated by your home town. It's similar to the value of a marriage compared to multiple sex partners.And I say it's funny that the Himalayas came up in this context, because my favorite lines in my favorite movie — "My Dinner With Andre" — use a trip to Mount Everest to signify looking for meaning by going far afield instead of seeing it nearby:
Tell me: why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean...I mean: is Mount Everest more "real" than New York? I mean, isn't New York "real"? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean... I mean, isn't there just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest? I mean, what do you think? You see, I think that not only is there nothing more real about Mount Everest, I think there's nothing that different, in a certain way. I mean, because reality is uniform, in a way. So that if you're--if your perceptions--I mean, if your own mechanism is operating correctly, it would become irrelevant to go to Mount Everest, and sort of absurd! Because, I mean, it's just--I mean, of course, on some level, I mean, obviously it's very different from a cigar store on Seventh Avenue, but I mean...I had just quoted that last month in a post called "What do you think the difference is between a tourist and a traveler?" where I had said "Most of our depth comes from the life we live at home, and if we were really observant we would never run out of things to perceive and contemplate at home."
These ideas are not about fossil fuel and global warming, but about psychology and philosophy. But it is the elite class that pushes environmentalism and (hypocritically) flits all over the earth (sometimes to talk about environmentalism), and it is the elite class that ought to be delving into the psychology and philosophy of travel.
But what about you, Althouse, don't you travel? The truth is, I haven't left Madison — other than to go to a nearby state park — since last August.