I’m on an Airplane, am I Ruining Our Planet?


I am writing this from an airplane and I am feeling a little guilty. Should I feel guilty? Air travel contributes something like 5% of all carbon emissions in the world but that is all planes combined, not just mine. And, I am on just one plane and it only has two engines, not four.

This is how I think sometimes. I want to live my life and not feel guilty but also contribute as little as possible to the warming of the earth. This particular plane is taking my wife and I to see our 19-year-old son who we haven’t seen in 6 months. He, and our other son are a biggest part of what we live for and the reason we work to address the climate crisis.

Maybe by now you recognize yourself or maybe you think I am crazy to think this way. Either way, I know many just say to hell with it, I have to live my life, I will try not to think about how my actions affect the planet. This type of thinking is understandable.

If we want good people to not be indifferent to climate change, we need to make caring about our carbon footprint less about lightbulbs and not eating beef and walking and biking everywhere. Many of us, especially those 50 years and older, myself included, are pretty set in our ways. We need to know that Congress is doing the big things so we don’t feel like fools for doing the small things. We need a broad swath of the public to rise up and express, at the very least, a concern about all these things we hearing about the climate. To do this we need to make this about sweeping changes that will allow us to live, if not exactly the life we live now, at least one that we recognize.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good.” I don’t know who originally said this and frankly, I don’t care, but it is a good saying. I was at a climate event when a somewhat prominent recording artist and a well-known vegetarian exclaimed from the stage, “if you’re not a vegetarian, your climate efforts are wasted.” If this wasn’t the perfect being the enemy of the good I don’t know what is. We need an enormous amount of our citizens to contact, maybe for the first time, their representatives in Congress. We can’t be telling those people that they are not worthy to speak up on this issue.

In other words, we need to let the “sinner” into the great cathedral of climate awesomeness. Why? Because we’re all sinners. Most of us fly and drive cars and turn on a lights. Acknowledging our own “sinfulness” means welcoming non-vegetarians, internal-combustion-engine drivers, Republicans who want climate solutions as much as we do and anyone else who doesn’t perfectly fit the stereotype. Otherwise, our sermons will be echoing off the walls of an empty, cavernous room.