Despite the biting north-easterly wind, it was a glorious day today. The air was clear, the light was a photographer’s dream and the whole atmosphere of the day held the promise of spring. Buds are beginning to show, wind-tossed catkins festoon the hazels and green daffodil spears are poking through the soil. The blue sky was a canvas on which was painted an endless flotilla of fluffy white clouds. But that was not all.
Criss-crossing this natural skyscape were eight or nine vapour trails – a sharp reminder of human intrusion on this vulnerable planet. Whether the trails were made by commercial aircraft or fighter jets, the net result is the same – an unnatural sky.
More disturbingly, these vapour trails indicate the level of activity in the sky on any given day. Air travel has changed dramatically over the last quarter of a century. It has become easier and cheaper to fly to the most exotic of locations. And, because of favourable tax breaks, giant retailers think nothing of transporting food around the globe to keep their shelves filled with produce in the ‘endless summer’ of their supermarket aisles.
Governments are in denial about the impact of air travel on the level of carbon emissions, so much so that current calculations on the level of emissions excludes international air travel. The result of this is that any savings achieved domestically are negated by the emission levels of air travel. Thus we are, as ever, living in a fool’s paradise. All the governmental talk about renewable energy, more efficient cars and double-glazed windows is no more than a bit of vote-catching sleight-of-hand.
The truth of the matter is that global air travel, both domestic and commercial, together with the madness that is our road-hauled food distribution system is catapulting us to the brink of the abyss. Without trying to sound like a street corner evangelist carrying my placarded message that ‘the end of the world is nigh’, it is difficult to imagine how we can avoid a global catastrophe within the next quarter of a century.
On such a day as today, all seems right with the world and it is difficult to comprehend that disaster might be just around the corner. The way we conduct ourselves in this highly industrialised world of ours is nothing short of madness. It makes juggling with chainsaws look about as harmless as a game of tiddlywinks. Our adherence to and obsession with an economic system based on consumerism and waste, fuelled by our basest instincts – greed and envy – will destroy us unless we get off the rollercoaster.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed the day, observing the awakening of a new spring and another season in the never-ending cycle. I enjoyed the day because I enjoy every day. Because I know something precious when I see it.