Loving the planet to death

In the age of climate change, travel has become an ethical conundrum.

Delta Seats
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2010 file photo, passengers walk past a Delta Airlines 747 aircraft in McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus, Mich. Delta Air Lines said Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, it will spruce up its fleet of 16 Boeing 747-400 aircraft, which fly mostly long-hauls from Tokyo, with more luxurious seats, added space and personal TVs. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)
Collins, Bob

Driving to see grandparents? Flying to warmer locales? Taking advantage of school breaks to do some sightseeing? The busiest travel days of the year are fast approaching. It’s no wonder transportation has replaced power as the top source of carbon emissions in the U.S.

So what is a green-minded traveler supposed to do? The number of airline passengers has more than doubled since 2003, empowering an industry that is growing exponentially and has no concrete plans to decarbonize. Is taking a cruise more environmentally responsible? Should we invest more infrastructure dollars to high-speed trains? Do carbon offsets matter? And what about the 1.1 million Americans a day who fly for business?

On Wednesday’s MPR News with Kerri Miller, we took a hard, and sometimes queasy, look at the intersection between travel and climate change. What is our moral responsibility to a planet in crisis? Are we loving it to death?


  • John Nolt, philosophy professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a special interest in environmental ethics and logic.

  • Bruce Lieberman is a science and environment reporter, who has written for Yale Climate Connections, Scientific American, and Scripps, among others.

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