In Defense of Travel

When I used to consider myself an environmentalist, I hated traveling anywhere. Not that I didn’t like to go places, but the thought of burning fossil fuels to enjoy myself bothered me immeasurably. After all, that is that all the environmental organizations were telling me that I shouldn’t be doing. I bought a hybrid and I would refuse to drive over the speed limit because it would mean decreased fuel economy. I’d plan my automobile trips to make sure that I wasn’t back tracking to visit someplace I needed to go, and if I forgot to get something from the grocery store, I’d rather wait a week and go without than make another “unnecessary” trip to the store. I would leave for my destination way sooner than I needed to just in case there was traffic so that I wouldn’t have to speed; and end up sitting in the parking lot of my destination, sometimes for almost an hour waiting from my appointment.

Be Vegan - Save The World!

Found at Gate A6 at SFO

Yet, here I am, sitting at the San Francisco International Airport getting ready to take my third fourth international trip this year. And, not only it doesn’t bother me, I’m looking forward to traveling as much as possible. What happened?

As you may know, I’m a vegan. I became a vegan when I was researching what else could I be doing to further reduce my environmental footprint. That is when I learned the shocking truth that animal agriculture creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all modes of transportation combined! And that a vegan driving a SUV has a lower carbon footprint than an omnivore driving a Prius.

(As an aside, it’s always amusing to me to see hybrid cars with “Save the Environment” bumper stickers barreling down the freeway at 20-30 miles/hour over the speed limit. DO THEY NOT REALIZE THEY ARE BURNING MORE FOSSIL FUELS BY SPEEDING THAN STICKING TO THE SPEED LIMIT?)

Why the hell weren’t environmental organizations telling their membership about this?! It is such a simple thing anyone who gives a damn about the climate can do. And it doesn’t involve getting into debt to buy a hybrid or electric car or put solar panels on one’s roof. Perhaps they are scared that if they tell people who look to them for guidance that they don’t want to hear, they’ll take their donation dollars to an organization who doesn’t hold a mirror up to the ways they are personally destroying the planet.

Anyway, after struggling to get environmental organizations to talk about this issue, which, apparently, they had been aware of for several years already but kept buried, I quit being an environmentalist. Rather than hacking at the branches of some of the worst environmental, health, social justice and ethical problems, I decided to go for the root and thus became an animal rights activist.

Having been liberated from the little what so-called “environmentalists” are willing to do, it didn’t bother me to speed to reach my destination if I was running a little late. No more wasted times sitting in parking lots because I go there too early. I still drive at the speed limit whenever I can and consolidate my trips and will refuse to go back to the store unless I absolutely must. But one thing I’ve started to do is travel carefreely just for pleasure. And I think everyone should do it!

One of the biggest problems facing the United States today is lack of empathy and understanding of different cultures. Half of the country has grown up in a bubble where the American Way is the only way and the other half, the liberal hipsters masquerading as environmentalists are building that bubble around themselves for fear of burning some fossil fuels. That is why they can feel outraged at some cultures consuming dogs, cats, dolphins and whales all the while munching on chickens, pigs and cows. 

For all the talk of acceptance and tolerance the so-called progressive-left are always spouting, they have a very narrow view of what they are willing to put up with. Most of the even most-left leaning liberals in the U.S. have a very imperialistic world view, i.e. their way is the best way.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that they shouldn’t be outraged as people consuming dogs, cats, dolphins and whales. They should; as they should be outraged at the breeding and consumption of chickens, pigs and cows, particularly when they cause so much environmental destruction on top of the associated ethical and health problems.

Sorry, I keep getting side tracked.

I think we need to travel more because that is the only way we can truly learn and understand different cultures.

We may read or hear about the politeness of the Japanese but unless one experiences it for themselves, as I did in January, they will never realize how naturally it comes to them and that it could be possible to have that same level of civil society elsewhere if we would just choose to make it so.

Or that Singapore is genuinely multiracial country where people of all faiths and creeds live, work and play together. In contrast, the United States is like cargo pants; sure, it has people from all over the world living in it, but they are all segregated in their own communities.

Or, for the size and sprawl of Sydney, they’ve done a remarkable job to ensure that there is still plenty of greenery around for people to enjoy and for their wild birds to call home.

Or, in Frankfurt… oh wait, that is where I’m going on this trip. Maybe I’ll update this post when I get back. UPDATE: In Frankfurt, I learned that as rich as their traditions and culture is, Germany doesn't appear to be tied to old, ineffective ways of doing things. I saw many examples of modernizations that increased efficiency, including lots of use of renewable energy, both solar and wind. And yes, lots of vegan food options in restaurants that don't advertise them explicitly. Vegan seems to be part of the lexicon of all the restaurant operators.

Anyway, traveling is a good thing. Travel more. Keep hounding government and industry to make more efficient and environmentally friendly forms of transportation and ensure that they are accessible to people of all socio-economic backgrounds. And, if you really care for the environment, go vegan.


So it sounds like you are saying we can use as much fossil fuel as we like as long as we are vegan. I'm a little surprised. Certainly animal agriculture (the way it has been practiced for a long time now here in the Western world) is a huge contributor to climate change, but fossil fuel extraction, processing, and usage is a huge problem when it comes to climate change as well as all kinds of environmental degradation. . Having been a Native American activist for years now, I know the indigenous friends I've made would find this almost laughable. You can tell them to go vegan and keep allowing the extraction of Alberta tar sands which is destroying the natural habitat where they have fished and hunted for countless generations. And you are referring to Sydney Australia? Is this your new model of how to combat climate change. Take a look at the fires in the news, and that country's insistence on the continued extraction of and complete dependence on coal? or haven't you been listening?

Thanks for writing, Linda. I'm not defending fossil fuels. As I mention in the last paragraph (perhaps you didn't get that far) we should be fighting for alternative energy sources for transportation. But we cannot live in bubbles isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. I think you are missing the point about learning different about cultures and exploration, something that is innate in humans. We can work on getting rid of fossil fuels and animal agriculture at the same time. Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.