I just flew in to the windy city

Or not! I was due to fly to America next week to a small town between the ‘windy city’, Chicago,  and Detroit, called Battle Creek. As a parish priest in Sheffield, I was lucky enough to enjoy the companionship and cooperation of a number of curates. Fr Brian Coleman (see his church’s website on the side bar) came to us in the year 2000 from Los Angeles and returned home to the States a couple of years ago to become the Vicar of St Thomas’s Anglican church in this town nestling between the Great Lakes. I’ve been meaning to go and see him for a while and the chance to celebrate the Eucharist and preach at Pentecost in his church and also take part in a Confirmation service with his Bishop was just the lure I needed. Sadly, as I speak, the trip is dodgy because of the cloud of volcanic ash and we will have minute by minute briefings from the airport to see if we can fly.

I’m chastened by a recent conversation with our splendid Environmental Officer who has given up flying (in common with the Bishop of London) because of its environmental impact. I’m full of admiration for those who make these small gestures but big sacrifices and would not want to dissuade anyone who sought to imitate him. However, I do think that flying and other travel is such a big part of people’s lives that the best we can hope for is  a big reduction in the number of flights we make. A research document suggests that 2% of world carbon emissions come from planes, and 5.5% of the United Kingdom’s (United National Panel on Climate Change). The Advisory Council for Aerospace Research in Europe has set three admirable tasks for the aviation industry before 2020: reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50%, an 80% cut in nitrogen oxides and a 50% noise reduction ( I live in an RAF County-thank God for this one!). The airlines claim they are doing their bit by building ever lighter and more fuel efficient planes (an 18% improvement in the last ten years and a further 25% improvement in the offing), filling planes up to 85% occupancy and more and by re-using metals and other materials from which planes are made. Virgin Atlantic seem to be the best at this (c.f  http://www.virgin-atlantic.com)

So what can we do? For a start, take a look at some the environmental groups websites: my favourite is Greenpeace of which I’m a member, the link is on the side bar. Pack less luggage is one simple way: look up how to offset the carbon you use is another and choosing those airlines who take all things green seriously (I’m now having a good look at Air Canada). In the end, flying less will help too and that particular bullet I and almost everyone I know needs to bite.

So, if I don’t get off next week then I suppose the comfort is that there will be just a little less carbon in the air that is my responsibility, if I do, then my policy of planting trees in the gardens of the houses that I have lived in will step up a pace or two!

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~ by Tim Ellis on May 15, 2010.

2 Responses to “I just flew in to the windy city”

  1. Still too much dodgy science for me in anthropogenic global warming, too much vested interest in persuading us to believe it – a lot of research funding depends on it and any scientists who question it are shunned as heretics – a bit like a religion which also makes me suspicious. We need to keep an open mind (on this and most things). Yet we have to reduce our unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels anyway but the answer to this has to be nuclear (fission) power leading one day to the fusion reactor using Tritium from sea water (plenty of that around) as fuel. Well the sun seems to do a decent job using this method so why not us? I live in Lincolnshire too but for me jet noise is the sound of freedom!

  2. Interestingly Barry, I did get to the States and visited the Ford Museum in Detroit-excellent. They had on display a prototype for a car fueld by Hydrogen, the most common substance in the universe…the only by-product is water. It seems refined hydrogen would cost about as much as petrol. We’ll see if it becomes commercially available.

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