Jan 29, 2009

Flying and London Free-ness

I haven't been writing as much lately. Not here, not elsewhere. What have I been doing? Listening to way too much Johnny Cash. GIS and remote sensing. Skipping lectures on lakes. Organizing at the Library House. And thinking about how to get out of flying to Tenerife with my conservation course.

I'm pretty serious about flying. (Some might say I'm pretty serious about everything but they just don't get me.) I drove from SF to Atlanta before flying to London because it's better in terms of carbon output. I avoided flying for about 2 years before my flight here in September after calculating my carbon footprint for the previous year. Even as a vegetarian cyclist who doesn't shop, I exceeded the average American output of carbon in 2006 because I flew several times. I'll remind you that if we all want to live like the average American we need 5 planet Earth's at this point. As we only have one, I thought I might need to curtail my personal emissions.

My last module on this course includes a trip to Tenerife, which is about 5 hours each way. We're staying for a 4 day field study of 3 habitats within a protected area. Our coursework will be to write a management plan for the protected area. I get the point in leaving the UK, leaving the temperate zone. I like the idea of the course, it sounds great! But I have major ethical issues with flying to Tenerife for 4 days for an exercise.

I spoke with one of my professors yesterday and he was really nice about it. I think we could come up with an alternative, but I'm sure it's going to suck. I might have to take the sucky alternative though, because I can't picture myself in Tenerife. I've got a major block on this and it's preventing me from moving forward on my current coursework. I flew here. I'm going to fly home to do my dissertation (still hunting for projects if you're a researcher in the West I'm interested in invasives, fire, restoration, and riparian habitats ... and way too much other stuff). Jan, my professor, thinks we can work it out so that I don't have to come back to London to do my analysis, which has always been my hope. But if that fell through, you can imagine that I'd have 6 long flights in less than a year if I go to Tenerife. Even 4 feels like too much.

It feels awkward to say we're ok to fly because it's for the greater good or whatever. That we're going to be more prepared to conserve things if we do this. I don't think we should be overly consumptive to learn how to protect other things. One of our exam topics is climate change in conservation... maybe we can just skip the flight and that would be a testament to our understanding of the subject?!

In other news, there's a Mini Eco-Fair in Camberwell this weekend at Funky Munky on Camberwell Church Road (number 25, upstairs). This is organized by the People's Republic of Southwark each month. February's will be at the Library House on Saturday the 28th. I'm going to help by organizing a Really Really Free Market. I'm looking forward to this as a way of extending the work of my friends and collectives in SF, particularly in memory of my friend, Kirsten Brydum, who was killed 4 months ago in New Orleans. Her birthday was last week so it feels positive to finally have a date and home for an RRFM in London. This Saturday there will be a Really Really Free Market in SF, per usual. Hit it up from 1-5pm at El Balazo/Sub Mission at 2187 Mission St @ 18th.


Anonymous said...

It crossed my mind too that the flight to Tenerife is excusable in the name of further progress in general, but I can also see how hard it is to make the case for it. However, as someone who lived in remote and rural parts of Tenerife for 16 years and, I've seen first hand, what effects that the changing climate is having on agriculture and many practices on the island that, I do think the case is justifiable. Small islands such as Tenerife have a greater need to be studied to be conserved themselves and there's such a lot one can learn from observation on Tenerife that, because of it's wildly diverse micro-climates, couldn't be seen elsewhere.

rachel kesel said...

All land is valuable and islands are indeed important. But in this case, we're not going to do useful work. It's an exercise, not an actual contribution. Because most management is going to be site specific, I don't know that we couldn't learn about 'managing nature', as the module is named, somewhere that doesn't require 25 people to fly 10 hours roundtrip. There are lots of habitats that the course has ignored, for instance deserts and chaparral. They're all unique. If we had all signed up for a module on island biogeography or tropical restoration in protected areas, then it might make sense to fly to Tenerife. That said, I'm interested in what I could learn there. Island biogeography really influenced me in my undergrad. Amazing stuff!

Anonymous said...

It is possible, but hideously expensive and quite lengthy (and sea sick making possibly), to go by ferry, from Cadiz (and you need to get to Cadiz first). That's how people first got to Tenerife, by boat. I did hear of someone who went overland from the UK to Australia for a friends' wedding because she refused to fly. Seat 61 (a web site) is about flight free travel and google will do for ferries. Have a go, or at least have a look.

ruchi said...

Sad but true, they estimate that the impact of a ferry is as bad or potentially worse than airplanes.

Hope you're surviving the snow!

rachel kesel said...

yeah, i don't know about the ferry outputs but i doubt it. sea travel is generally better. but it's too expensive.

for now, i'm off to liberate an estate agent sign for some sledding. carbon neutral, ya know.