Thursday, July 3, 2014

Simple Suggestion #209... Spend love miles, not air miles

Once upon a time, when global climate change was hardly considered a real threat by the majority of the world's scientists, a young Canadian woman travelled to Europe and met a wonderful Belgian couple who showed her Flanders and the North Sea. They adopted her as their Canadian daughter because they had lost a son to Canada (he made his life in Ontario and now has a Canadian family). The relationship between the couple and the young woman bloomed quickly and continued to flourish through letters and parcels. When she married, she and her husband spent some precious time in Belgium so he could get to know her 'Flemish parents.' Their children heard many stories about the Belgians who adopted two Canadians, and last summer, one of the children actually met them.

Almost thirty years later, the friendship is still going strong, thanks to the love of this amazing couple. I will see them again tomorrow for the first time in twenty-two years. (And today, we are visiting Vimy Ridge, which they showed us 22 years ago.) I'm so excited!

Being a proponent and active practitioner of Voluntary Simplicity, a trip overseas is not something I am very comfortable with because of my concern for the health of our planet. Creating the kinds of fossil fuel emissions that jet planes do, they should be used infrequently, if at all. But in a world where families and beloved friends are scattered far and wide, how do we manage to reduce the carbon we're putting into our atmosphere, especially when it has become clear that global climate change affects us all?

Well, for one thing, those of us who live in wealthier nations can opt out of our air miles/travel rewards programs as much as possible. Frivolous reward vacations might seem like a dream come true for a tropical week or two, but scientists are saying that we're reaching a global tipping point (if we haven't reached it already) as far as our planet is concerned. Rather than spending air miles just to satisfy our wanderlust, we can content ourselves with being armchair tourists and taking in cultural events in our own region, leaving trips across the oceans to those who have loved ones with whom they need to visit and spend time.

I first came across the air miles vs. love miles idea when I heard an interview of British writer and environmental activist George Monbiot (click here for a link to his blog). Air miles are, of course, the airline industry's ploy to keep us addicted to travel... and few of us have much self control when it comes to planning our vacations -- if we have the money to go, let's go, forget those carbon impacts. But our desire for sandy beaches and palm trees is actually leading to the melting of polar icecaps and the possibility that those beaches (and possibly some island nations) will end up underwater.

So I am spending these love miles with a considerable amount of unease and anxiety for future generations, and am expecting and hoping that this will be my last airline trip in a long time. It's hypocritical of me to be in Europe and jabbering here about global climate change when I am definitely a contributor -- another example of the conundrums of this age we live in. But oh, it will be so good to hug my dear friends again!!!!

Love miles, not air miles!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

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