Dues-payin’ back home

On the flight back from Mexico, I was reading the excellent Lonely Planet Cancún, Cozumel & the Yucatan guidebook that we used throughout the trip. In the book, the authors addressed the issue of air travel and climate change, and it’s an aspect of modern travel that those who claim concern for the rapidly building upward spike of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere should consider.

Quote: “[E]very form of motor travel generates CO2, but planes are by far the worst offenders, not just because of the sheer distances … but because they release greenhouse gases high into the atmosphere. The statistics are frightening. Two people taking a flight between Europe and the U.S. will contribute as much to climate change as an average household’s gas and electricity consumption for an entire year.”

OK, dandy. There it was. I had been remarkably guilt-free up to this point in having indulged in a selfish, pleasure-loaded trip to a fabulous region of the hemisphere, and that lack of guilt was now just beginning to come under attack in my unconscious. After all, as a well-trained member of a Christian society with a long-standing, knee-deep stance in the Sludge Pit of Puritania, something in my cranial hard drive was well aware of the fact that one simply does not go out and have a great time without rasslin’ with, sooner or later, a guilt monkey of some kind. Maybe that monkey would be a little organ-grinder-type cute little fella, or maybe it would be the size of an mango-bloated orangatan, but a guilt simian of some sort would have to be confronted, danced with, and paid.

Lonely Planet’s recommendation to appease? Go to one of the carbon calculator websites that “allow jetsetters to offset the greenhouse gases they’re responsible for with contributions to energy-saving projects in the developing world.” In other words, good news, travel hedonist! You can indeed buy your way out of the Gilded Cage of Global Guilt.

I went to a site called ClimateCare.org, which has morphed into some suspicious beast called J.P.MorganClimateCare.com (and what can we learn from Wall Street pirates gobbling up a jetsetter guiltsite?) There, I discovered that my 4,717-mile round trip to Cancun had generated 1.05 tons of CO2, the guilt of which could be erased via a contribution of $14.44. Will that be Visa or Mastercard, Mr. Van Dyke? While this contribution helped flatline my simmering traveler’s conscience, it was almost too easy. I realized this particular monkey wouldn’t be completely banished until I got my hands dirty somehow. I wish I could have planted a few of those spectacular bougainvillea bush/trees that we saw all over the Yucatan as some kind of offset tribute, but a bristlecone pine is, for us high desert folk, the more solid choice.