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By Sherry Listgarten

Summer travel: Is anything changing?

Uploaded: Jun 11, 2019

In the midst of this record-setting early June heat, following one of the wettest Mays on record in the US, I see lots of beautiful photos of friends and acquaintances traveling to interesting, far-flung places for summer vacation. It’s fun to hear about and to see the pictures. But it’s also true that something for me has changed.

Distant summer travel is a long-standing tradition. It’s a great time to visit family and friends, to learn about different places and to try new things. We live in a very international community, and a very wealthy one, so long-distance travel is common. In the past few years, I vacationed with family in both London and Nepal, and my daughter flew to New Zealand to visit a close family friend. I bought offsets, and other than that didn’t really think twice about it, at least climate-wise.

But my perspective has changed, and I would not make those same choices any more. It’s pretty easy for me since I’m not big on travel anyway. But it’s also true that the more I read about global warming and its impact, the more discordant those activities are for me. This discomfort is taking root in some countries, and also among more and more climate scientists. But it takes a lot of time and/or immersion in climate news to get to that point. Changes like these, at planetary scale, are hard to understand and assimilate. Big ships take a while to turn. And people have doubts about whether their personal travel makes any difference. But I expect our travel patterns will change -- the question is when. Do you think change is happening where we live? Are people you know thinking about the climate impact of their summer travel and finding ways to travel less?

For this short blog post, I’d be interested in hearing whether you know of anyone who has modified their summer plans with climate change in mind. Maybe a friend has opted to travel more locally. Or you know of an acquaintance who has decided to visit her family for twice as long, but just every other year. Maybe your workplace has cancelled the annual summer conference in Paris for a series of more local get-togethers. I would love to hear in the comments if you are seeing signs of change. If you are making your own changes, are you talking about it at all, or do you prefer to “mind your own business” and stay quiet, to avoid the perception of preaching? Please share! If nothing is changing, that’s a helpful observation as well.

(Blogger note: A commenter suggested ignoring this last paragraph, and I agree. Please ignore it, and share whatever comments you feel are most relevant.) Note: I expect that some of you will want to weigh in with doubts that our individual actions make a difference, or to assert that traveling less doesn’t make much sense until <something else> happens, or to express frustration with climate hypocrisy. I think those are very important responses, deserving of their own posts with more background. Given the limited context in this post I’d ask you, if at all possible, to try to stay responsive to the main question, namely whether you are noticing your peers making climate-aware choices about summer travel, and whether people are comfortable talking about such changes.

Current Climate Data (April/May 2019)

Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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