American blog “Love and long-distance travel in the time of climate change”

In a thoughtful, soul-searching article by an American climate campaigner, Eve, she sets out her dilemma about flights across the States to visit her family several times each year. About a year earlier, a meteorologist in the US, Eric Holthaus, vowed not to fly again – after he understood just how serious the issue of climate change had become, and how large a part of his personal carbon footprint flying had become. With thousands of other Americans, Eve was influenced by Eric Holthaus. She writes of her difficulties in having lived a typical American life, involving studying and working in places far from home,  yet wanting to keep in regular contact with parents and family. She describes the sadness of choosing not going home to visit parents. “It is very, very strange to be in a position now — and I don’t think I’m alone — where I find myself weighing seeing the people I love against my own complicity in the global climate crisis.” And  “Never before has our economy been so effortlessly globalized that jobs pull people back and forth across countries and oceans, and never before have we had so much evidence that the systems and habits we’ve created to actually live in that economy are quite literally destroying the planet.”



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I just broke down in tears in boarding area at SFO while on phone with my wife. I’ve never cried because of a science report before.

Love and long-distance travel in the time of climate change

By Eve Andrews  (Grist – USA)

24 Dec 2014

This is the first time in my life that I’ve spent the holidays in a fairly unfamiliar place, surrounded by fairly unfamiliar people. For Jews, Christmastime can always be a little weird – it’s readily acknowledged that Christmas is a holiday that everyone observes to some extent, simply by nature of everything being closed, but my family really does not. We’ve always celebrated Hanukkah, which is even more awkwardly placed than Christmas relative to Thanksgiving, and yet I’ve always been able to be with family for at least part of it, because I’ve never lived 2,500 miles away from home before.

Since moving to Seattle, it takes me about seven hours (there are no direct flights) to fly to my hometown of Pittsburgh — the city in which I was born and raised, where my parents and sister and brother-in-law live, and that will always, always hold a not-insignificant piece of my heart. I know some people who dread returning to the cities that have known them as bratty children and awkward adolescents, and I am not one of them. For all of my (admittedly brief) adult life, I have cried through each takeoff from the PIT tarmac, bound for whichever city I called home at the time.

When talking with my parents about travel plans to come home this year around the holidays, I figured I had to choose between Christmastime and Thanksgiving. Since, as stated above, we don’t really do Christmas, the choice seemed obvious.

“But we’ll pay for you to fly home whenever you want because we want to see you,” said the very loving and generous people whom I am incredibly privileged to call my parents. “If it’s a matter of money, it’s not an issue!”

But it’s not just a matter of money. I don’t know whether or not to be embarrassed by this, but I am still haunted by an article written by Slate meteorologist Eric Holthaus detailing how he was brought to tears by the IPCC’s report on climate change.

“…[L]ater that day, I was on the phone with my wife, getting ready to board a plane in San Francisco and thinking about the report more existentially. Any hope for a healthy planet seemed to be dwindling, a death warrant written in stark, black-and-white data. It came as a shock.

“This was our chance,” I told her, crying. “And it’s gone.”

Holthaus evaluated his own carbon footprint, and realized that flying regularly was his single largest contribution to the emissions that are warming our world.

I remember, vividly, reading Holthaus’ essay for the first time from the comfort of the couch in my cozy apartment in Chicago, which I shared with my then-boyfriend, in the midst of putting together my application for the Grist fellowship. I didn’t have a particularly strong background in environmental issues at the time, and was attempting to get a better grasp on the things I would hopefully be writing about. Well, I thought, after finishing the last sentence, fuck.

Not two hours after reading that, we had a conversation about what would happen if I were offered the fellowship.

“It’s not that long of a flight,” he said. “We could probably visit each other once a month!”

I racked up in my head how many flights that would be, and thought about rising sea levels, and terrible heat waves, and hurricanes in New York and New Orleans. And then I thought about our relationship of 3+ years and how much I loved him, and felt – ironically enough – so, so selfish for thinking about those other things.

Instead of flying to Seattle for the job, I bought a car and we drove from Chicago together. It was something I wanted to do for two reasons: Practically, to be able to schlep all my stuff across the country, and theoretically, to be able to comprehend the distance. With each of the days and hundreds of miles of snow-covered plains and mountains that passed, the air in the car between us seemed to grow heavier. We spent my 25th birthday driving across western Montana in long periods of silence, and I thought about the glaciers to our north receding.

Somewhere in western Montana.Somewhere on I-90 in western Montana. Eve Andrews
Humans are causing climate change. Contrary to what some politicians head-scratchingly argue, this is a matter of fact. And the onus of putting the brakes on what has become a runaway train of carbon emissions lies squarely on governments and major corporations.

But the single biggest change that I can make, as just one individual human, is to cut down on the amount of times I get on a plane. Upon realizing that, the extent to which all the people I love are scattered across the country has never been more apparent.

All the while I was growing up in Pittsburgh, the narrative of what it meant to be successful always seemed to include going far away. Leave the state for college (I did). Travel internationally (I did). Find a job in a bigger, more “exciting” city (I did – twice). “Maybe don’t put 2-3 time zones in between you and the people you love” was never really a part of that. When my best friends and I were in middle school and high school, we would talk about how excited we were to grow up and live far away from home. Now, we talk about how we can’t wait to live somewhere where we can walk to see each other instead of boarding a 747.

It is very, very strange to be in a position now — and I don’t think I’m alone — where I find myself weighing seeing the people I love against my own complicity in the global climate crisis.

I don’t know if this particular point of tension has ever existed before in our cultural consciousness: Never before has our economy been so effortlessly globalized that jobs pull people back and forth across countries and oceans, and never before have we had so much evidence that the systems and habits we’ve created to actually live in that economy are quite literally destroying the planet.

I chose not to go home for the holidays. How absurd and hypocritical would it be of me, I thought, to spend so much time writing about saving the climate and making green choices and then take two cross-country flights to the same place in one month? Especially, while we’re playing the real talk game, after flying to Bali this summer for a summit on climate change?

Instead, after staring at a blank Word document literally all day long, I am writing this at my dining room table at 11:30 p.m. on December 23 in an empty house as it pours rain outside, because this is Seattle. In the time that I should have spent writing this, I’ve talked with my dad, my mom, my sister, my brother, and my ex-boyfriend over a litany of forms of long-distance communication.

Am I pleased with my decision to remove one flight from some arbitrary yearly allotment? Do I feel that this gesture to reduce my carbon footprint for 2014 was worth it? What do you think?

In one of the half-dozen conversations I had tonight with people I very much wish I were seeing face-to-face, I said, half-jokingly, to my dad, “Being an adult is hard.”

“Yes, honey,” he agreed, emphatically. “It really just means doing a lot of things that you don’t want to do!”

I suppose that responsibility and happiness have always, throughout human history, tended to be at odds with each other — but god damn, it sucks when that hits home. Or, as the case may be, keeps you from getting home when you most want to be there.



Meteorologist Eric Holthaus’ vow to never to fly again draws praise, criticism

By Jason Samenow  (Washington Post)

October 1, 2013

Meteorologist and science writer Eric Holthaus lit up Twitter last Friday when he announced he was never flying again due to the perils of climate change. Strongly motivated to reduce his carbon footprint, the decision was especially significant as Holthaus is a frequent flyer and owns a pilot license.

Holthaus, who formerly wrote a weather column for the Wall Street Journal and now covers weather and climate issues for the Atlantic’s new online Web initiative Quartz, said the sobering conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change motivated the decision.

Andrew Freedman, a science writer for Climate Central, says Holthaus’ emotion-filled reaction to the report compromises his objectivity in writing about the issue.

But Holthaus says his “walk the walk” response to the dire consequences of climate change strengthens rather than weakens his credibility when writing about the issue.

Holthaus’ actions earned the respect of Dave Tolleris, a Richmond-based meteorologist skeptical of catastrophic climate change scenarios.

“Eric is willing to make that commitment and take the steps to change his lifestyle and not be a hypocrite,” Tolleris said. “While I do not agree with his pessimistic view [on climate change], I do think that earns some points from me.”

On the other hand, Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld questioned Holthaus’ motives. “I’m calling BS on this drama queen,” Gutfeld said. “This is what dooms environmentalism – dishonest hysterics who put drama before data.”

Why I’m never flying again

By Eric Holthaus


Last week, when a panel of the world’s best scientists issued a new report on climate change (pdf), I did my best to read it like a meteorologist. The facts led to a simple conclusion: Humans cause global warming. And without an immediate and dramatic cut in carbon emissions, the problem could become irreversible.

That was easy enough to convey. But later that day, I was on the phone with my wife, getting ready to board a plane in San Francisco and thinking about the report more existentially. Any hope for a healthy planet seemed to be dwindling, a death warrant written in stark, black-and-white data. It came as a shock.

“This was our chance,” I told her, crying. “And it’s gone.”

My wife and I realized that the “substantial and sustained reductions” called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to start with us. World governments will never agree in time to coordinate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. If anything is to change, it will have to come from individuals taking ownership of the problem themselves.
And that’s why my wife and I suddenly knew we could never fly again.

Now, I’m just an average guy, trying to do my best. I already do a lot to reduce my impact on the environment: I recycle. My wife and I share a car. I’m a vegetarian. I turn out the lights when I leave the room. I take those fancy reusable bags with me when I go food shopping.
But I also fly a lot—about 75,000 miles last year. A lot of that is travel to Africa and the Caribbean, where I work on projects to reduce the impact of climate change. This year, I also started flying on behalf of the startup I work for, Weathermob. I have gold status on Delta, and my wife and I were planning trips to Hawaii and Europe, all for free with frequent flyer miles.

Still, I didn’t comprehend quite how big an impact all those flights were having on the climate until I crunched the numbers with UC Berkeley’s excellent carbon footprint calculator. I was shocked to discover that air travel comprised almost half of my household’s emissions last year, or 33.5 metric tons of CO2.

The average American household, as you can see in the chart above, flies much less than I do, and should probably focus more effort on reducing emissions from car travel (or other things) rather than planes. But for a lot of us frequent fliers, the environmental harm is dramatic and adds up fast. A one-way flight from New York to San Francisco (2.23 tons of CO2) has nearly the same impact as driving a Hummer the same distance (2.81 tons).
By vowing not to fly, I went from having more than double the carbon footprint as the average American to about 30% less than average.

I don’t take the decision lightly or imagine that it won’t have a big impact on my life. But my wife and I are lucky enough to live in a stunningly beautiful part of the country. Most of our immediate family lives within a day’s drive. I’m excited to spend future vacation days exploring the local area.

I’ll still have to travel a lot (by car and train), and I’ll use videoconferencing for meetings I can’t miss. But by removing my single biggest impact on the climate in one swoop, I can rest a bit easier knowing I’ve begun to heed the IPCC’s call to action. Individual gestures, repeated by millions of people, could make a huge difference.

That humans cause climate change was not a new finding last week, but scientists are now more confident about it (95%) than they are that smoking causes cancer or that vitamins are good for you. Also, for the first time, the IPCC report cast doubt on the efficacy of geoengineering, previously considered a possible last-ditch technical solution.

So I guess last week’s report hit me harder than I expected. My profession is meteorology, which is all about data, but my heart is drawn to people and how we interact with the planet. Together, we can reverse the damage that we have already caused. We can all do something.
My first big step is staying on the ground.



Slate Meteorologist Eric Holthaus Stops Flying for A Year to Fight Climate Change

By Zain Haidar
Published Oct 3 2014

Eric Holthaus made national headlines and was branded a “sniveling beta male” by Fox News for a decision he made one year ago.

Holthaus, a meteorologist and climate writer for Slate, is used to approaching data with an objective lens, but a 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a “death warrant written in stark, black-and-white data” – brought him to tears. The IPCC made it clear that humans are negatively influencing the climate and that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to affect the Earth’s climate for centuries.

By his own estimates, Holthaus normally flew 75,000 miles a year on trips related to climate change projects and work for a startup. After some calculations, Holthaus discovered air travel comprised nearly half of his household’s emissions for a year.

After realizing the implications of the report and “taking ownership of the problem,” Holthaus and his wife made a decision to never fly again.

Holthaus reached that decision in 2013, and since then his arguments for individual responsibility toward climate change have made significant waves in the media. The Washington Post and other major outlets carried the story; Rolling Stone labeled Holthaus the “Rebel Nerd of Meteorology.” On Fox News’ immensely popular talk show The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld criticized Holthaus’ manhood and said he was “calling B.S. on this drama queen.”

In a recent perspective piece Holthaus published in Slate, he wrote “There’s no way you can be on the fence after seeing the data the way I’ve seen it.”

But how was a year without flying for a professional who’s used to taking to the skies for both work and leisure?

Not terrible, according to Holthaus.

In his article, Holthaus says there are obvious drawbacks: bus rides that take longer than a day to get from one major city to the next and canceled speaking opportunities that could have taken the meteorologist to the United Nations and across the country.

But Holthaus says taking a year off from flying “opened my mind more to enjoying the journey than just rushing to get to the destination.”

Holthaus wrote that his experience has motivated him to adopt new goals for the next year: micro changes that can have an impact when considered on the macro scale like moving into a smaller house.

Holthaus is not the only one dedicated to avoiding airplanes to help the planet. Kevin Anderson, a professor at the University of Manchester, has gone 11 years without flying and wrote recently on the benefits of slow travel.

Decisions by writers and thinkers like Holthaus and Anderson may be controversial, but they could also help reduce carbon emissions if adopted on a larger scale.