A new passport has just arrived in the post. I remember my first one, more than half a century ago, almost as clearly as I remember the arrival of my first child — with one big difference.
The baby demanded responsibility. The passport promised freedom. For a scruffy kid who’d never actually ventured ‘abroad’ this majestic blue document with its gold crest meant a new world opening up.
My ambition was to fill its 24 pages with stamps from ever more exotic destinations.
By my late 20s I was a foreign correspondent and within a few years that’s what I had done. I have no such ambitions for the new passport. Exactly the opposite.
In 2018 one in 12 of all international travellers was British. And we do it regardless of the damage to the planet and to our children’s future. The past decade was the hottest on record and we can’t just bleat: ‘Oh, but temperatures fluctuate all the time’
When it expires in ten years I hope its pages will be as nakedly pristine as they are today. My single exception MIGHT be Greece, where my grandchildren live.
The reason? I have given up air travel. I want to save the world from climate change. Greta Thunberg has a competitor. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. The truth is rather more commonplace — and a great deal more selfish.
I do not see my self-imposed ban on air travel as a sacrifice — and I don’t think I’m alone. Be honest with yourself. Air travel has stopped being fun.
I have no such ambitions for the new passport. Exactly the opposite. When it expires in ten years I hope its pages will be as nakedly pristine as they are today
You only have to look at the litany of complaints on social media. Once, newspaper stories about travel evoked adventure and glamour.
Now they are about drunken passengers or interminable delays or lost baggage.
This week’s story of a Delta plane dumping fuel over a Los Angeles school seems a grisly metaphor for our relationship with air travel.
The most positive recent coverage I can think of was the inaugural 19-hour direct flight to Sydney.
But it was actually a story of human endurance. What effect would that have on your organs, never mind your spirits? And that’s before you even board the plane.
The airport is the first circle of hell, divorced from all natural existence. No real light, no real air, no escape. Just enforced shopping and snacking and being ordered about like naughty children by officious staff. But still we do it.
We are flying more than ever before. And there is every sign that we will keep doing it. Note the fuss this week over Flybe.
The Government’s justification for keeping Flybe in the air is that it’s used by people living a long way from big cities.
Fair enough on one level. It’s five hours by train from Newquay to London.
I have given up air travel. I want to save the world from climate change. Greta Thunberg has a competitor. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. The truth is rather more commonplace — and a great deal more selfish
But at least the train takes you into the city centre and, assuming you’ve booked a seat, it’s an infinitely more civilised way to travel. If the Government really wants to intervene, it should make rail travel cheaper.
As for long-haul flights, why would anyone cross the world for the sake of a selfie? We travel because we can, but without any real purpose. There is nowhere left to discover, only to despoil.
And we do more of it than any other nationality. In 2018 one in 12 of all international travellers was British. And we do it regardless of the damage to the planet and to our children’s future.
The past decade was the hottest on record and we can’t just bleat: ‘Oh, but temperatures fluctuate all the time.’ Not at sea they don’t.
Oceans absorb more than 90 per cent of greenhouse gases emitted when we burn fossil fuels, and the measurements over the past ten years are the highest since records began.
This is for real. Which is why David Attenborough says the planet is heading for disaster.
The airport is the first circle of hell, divorced from all natural existence. No real light, no real air, no escape. Just enforced shopping and snacking and being ordered about like naughty children by officious staff. But still we do it. London’s Luton Airport is pictured above
And air travel makes a massive contribution to climate change.
I had a heated exchange with a friend about a trip he’s planning with a group of other friends to the Far East.
He said they’ll be offsetting the C02 they’ll be spewing out with a tree planting scheme. He’s a well-meaning chap but I’m afraid that, like so many others, he’s been horribly misled.
Tony Kirkham, of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is one of the world’s most respected tree scientists.
He tells me it takes at least ten years for a ‘shade tree’ such as an oak or elm to mature to the stage where it just begins to ‘bank’ carbon.
All being well, after 100 years it will have banked about 20 tons. But at least half of newly planted trees die within five years because they don’t get the care they need. And anyway, we don’t have 100 years.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggests technology will sort out flying.
We could have electric planes one of these days, he claims. Sure. And I ‘could’ sprout wings and fly to Paris this weekend. These things take time. I repeat: we don’t have time.
So all doom and gloom? Not in the least. Giving up flying is not making a sacrifice. It’s the opposite.
I spent the Christmas break walking the coastal path of West Wales. It is easily the most beautiful in this country — perhaps in the world.
The rock formations take your breath away. From the clifftops of Cardigan Bay, the only thing between you and the peaks of the Snowdon range in the far distance are the dolphins leaping and lunging.
What you don’t see are crowds of people. I have walked all day and seen barely another soul.
It’s true that if you fancy a dip the sea is probably a little chillier than the Aegean, but this is where the terrible threat of global warming delivers a perverse benefit.
When package tours started to take off in the Sixties, we all went abroad for the sun.
From the clifftops of Cardigan Bay, the only thing between you and the peaks of the Snowdon range in the far distance are the dolphins leaping and lunging
Now that it’s getting to the stage where we won’t have to, we can rediscover the glories of holidaying at home without moaning about the weather.
Children might experience again the wonder of rock pools. Remember them? We have wonderful forests and lochs and mountains and ancient cities — all within reach without the hell of a sleepless night on a long-haul flight.
And how much nicer to be in tune with the seasons rather than face the misery of jet lag.
Ah, you might say, but what about the allure of those faraway places, mysterious and wonderful?
To which I would say: find them if you can. You may very well be disappointed.
Foreign holidays were once a chance to experience the exotic. No longer. The exotic has been homogenised.
The allure of the Taj Mahal is lost when you fight for a glimpse with a million other tourists and their selfie sticks.
So strike a blow for the environment. For the British economy which benefits so much from local tourism. For your own wellbeing and happiness. Stay home!
I used to be a bookies’ boy- but they ruin lives
This may not be a wise confession to make in a newspaper that’s done so much to expose the outrageous way big betting firms have been behaving, but here goes: I was once a bookies’ runner.
In my defence, it was a very long time ago. I was, I think, eight or nine years old and it would be a decade before gambling was legalised in this country.
So every poor neighbourhood like mine in Cardiff had its own dodgy character on the street corner.
Is there anything more sickening than hearing a spokesman for one of the gambling giants protesting that they are working hard to protect ‘vulnerable’ gamblers when the truth is that their companies are making billions from bleeding them dry? [File photo]
We kids would collect the bets for tomorrow’s horse race from our neighbours and deliver them to the bookie. I can’t remember ever being paid.
In those days, if an adult told you to do something, you did it. And I suppose there was the thrill of knowing you were doing something a bit naughty — even if we weren’t quite sure why.
It’s 60 years since the Betting and Gaming Act made the street-corner bookie redundant and paved the way for an industry that has wrought untold misery.
It’s 15 years since Tony Blair’s disgraceful Gambling Act effectively wrote the industry a blank cheque.
Is there anything more sickening than hearing a spokesman for one of the gambling giants protesting that they are working hard to protect ‘vulnerable’ gamblers when the truth is that their companies are making billions from bleeding them dry?
Addicts are being created and exploited. Families and lives are being destroyed. Mental health services are struggling to cope.
The street-corner bookies of my childhood were breaking the law, but they were saints compared with the titans of the gambling industry today. It’s time the betting barons were sent packing.