Travel dilemmas

Night time lights in Oncheon, on the Four Rivers cycle route, 200km south of Seoul

We are cycling for three weeks in South Korea (see our tour blog here). Our last cycle tour outside New Zealand was in Colombia and this is quite different! We haven’t toured in Asia since we worked in Vietnam a lot in the early 2010s. It’s fun to be back in Asia and in a place that feels very, very different to New Zealand. To us that is the core appeal of travel – being somewhere completely different where you know you don’t belong and have to figure out how to get your basic needs met. Not that South Korea is particularly challenging on the front of getting basic needs met – there are plenty of places to stay and eat at regular intervals, even if you don’t know what food you are getting till it turns up.

However, in terms of dilemmas…the first dilemma now is climate guilt. Should one travel overseas or is flying an act that changes the climate? Actually, that’s not a reasonable question, because flying is indubitably damaging to the environment. The question is only, should one travel overseas?

One line of thought is that overseas travel should only be for essential trips. But what is ‘essential’? Different people regard very different things as ‘essential’. Many people focus on visiting people you love as essential – George Montbiot coined the term ‘Love Miles’ for which I would like to shoot him. I like a lot of what he says but I think the ‘Love Miles’ concept was a mistake. Why is visiting people you love ‘essential’ whereas doing other things that you love and make you feel complete ‘inessential’? Put another way, what’s so important about people? Humans rate themselves far too highly and that’s one of the reasons the planet is in the mess it is currently in. The focus is almost always people and, commonly, creating more of them.

One reason I find the ‘Love Miles’ concept illogical is that it notionally allows people who have lots of children, thereby burdening the environment, to travel guilt-free. If, for example, you have ten children and they choose to live all over the world, the ‘Love Miles’ concept says it’s essential to visit them. To me, this non-sense proves my point – having progeny is used to justify ever increasing environmental damage and that doesn’t make sense at all.

Strange things you find in South Korean motel lobbies

I see little likelihood that the flying dilemma will be solved until our choices are taken away. Unless, for example, commercial flights become unavailable or hugely expensive, or some sort of rationing approach is used. How otherwise do you get people to stop doing something that they see everyone else doing? This particularly came to mind for me while we were cycling through the middle of South Korea and huge numbers of fighter jets flew overhead. They were leaving the nearby air base at the rate of about one per minute. Talk about considerable use of jet fuel for a purpose that I don’t rate highly…military force. South Korea was making a show of force to push back against North Korean actions.

War would seem to be one of the worst possible uses of energy/reasons to emit greenhouse gases given all its other negative consequences! I did some rough calculations – the F-35 fighter jets scrambled for the show of force burn around 5,600 litres of fuel per hour which equates to emissions of 290 kilograms of CO2 per minute. Our return flights to Seoul resulted in emissions of around 2.8 tonnes of CO2, or approximately 10 minutes of fighter flying time. My analysis doesn’t conclude anyone is in the right here. It’s just about how hard it is to give up something you love when the examples around you aren’t illuminating.

Of fighter jets, though, that’s becoming another of the travel dilemmas. When we went to Slovenia there was the potential of Putin lobbing nuclear missiles at Ukraine, which is now substantially higher than in June. While we have been in South Korea, North Korea has fired missiles into the Sea of Japan. The missiles haven’t reached as far as Japan’s exclusive economic zone, yet. However, the show of force with the F-35s was in response to the missiles and was joint between the US, Japan and South Korea.

It feels like international tensions are rising considerably and the threat of nuclear war greater than any time in the last 60 years (since the Cuban missile crisis). That’s enough to put one off travelling very far from New Zealand. Damn, war wouldn’t be my preferred solution to curbing international flights.

If roads were constructed like bike lanes.

Disclaimer: These jokes apply to New Zealand, not South Korea as we have experienced it to date!

Published by janecshearer

I'm a self-employed life enthusiast living in Gibbston, New Zealand

One thought on “Travel dilemmas

  1. Kia Ora
    Loved reading your travel blog.So diverse between rural and urban.
    I’m loving the floral cycle shorts.
    Enjoy and see you ontyou are back in Nz 😃😃

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