A Million Miles that Ruined the Planet
Yes! It’s all my fault – I have to confess. My love affair with airline travel has contributed, possibly fatally, to the demise of the planet. My only excuse is that, when I started, I didn’t know that would happen. I’m currently eleven and a half thousand miles from home, a journey I’ll have to do in reverse in a couple of weeks time. That’s twenty three thousand miles in a single month. Sitting on a plane crammed with almost four hundred people doing the same thing made me think really hard. Most of them were going on holiday, to visit family or on a business trip. Many of those journeys were luxury items at a time when we’ve got to think very carefully about our carbon footprint. It set me calculating mine.
|Too Many of These|
|Martyr's Square, Beirut as it once was.|
|Dubai as I originally saw it|
Dubai airport was a tarmac strip on the edge of the desert. From there I flew to Abu Dhabi, which didn’t have an airport at all – only a subkha strip on the beach and a hut made of concrete blocks roofed with corrugated iron that served as a terminal. We landed in an old DC3 that still remembered the Second World War, there were camels in the distance, I’d been reading Lawrence of Arabia and – yes – I loved the desert too.
|In the balmy waters of the Gulf|
|A railway station in China|
|In front of Lenin's tomb, closed for the Glasnost revolution|
|Dawn over Mount Elbrus, from the plane|
The first sign that something was wrong came when I discovered that the night-watchmen had vanished in the middle of the night and the rest of the staff didn’t turn up for work in the morning. The steward, the garden boy and the small boy were absent. The radio was playing martial music. A phone call confirmed what I feared, there had been a coup during the night. I was desperate to get out of the capital city. Throwing some essentials into a bag, I drove round the back roads to the airport to try to get a flight into the interior where my husband was. There was only one flight still running and it was fully booked.
|Peta, aged 2, in West Africa|
|A runway - believe it or not - somewhere in Africa|
There were holes in the floor and I could see the tree-tops of the rain forest skimming underneath our feet. That flight is also one of my daughter’s first memories, mainly because she arrived without knickers, which I’d forgotten to pack in my panic. It’s among mine because of the guilt and the overwhelming relief associated with it.
|Flying Small in Canada|
|A haze of pollution over Singapore|
|More of this, I think.|