My yearly pilgrimage around the world

But the plane will fly whether I am on it or not. I say.

I will plant two trees per trip. I say.

Planes are still flying so surely it is not a problem. I say.

I am not giving up seeing my kids. I say.

I made a spreadsheet! I say.

As a writer for environmental sustainability it is impossible to justify my yearly travels. The flights needed to spend time with each of my little families feel essential. But it is not. And is not sustainable in our present period of climate crisis. With a lifelong study of environmentally sustainable practices and organic management behind me and in front of me I cannot pretend that my need to travel has not been harmful to my environment.

But I cannot not visit with my families.

Its all bull. At some point we must admit to ourselves that over consumption and thoughtless travel and single use anything are going to have to be reckoned with. I think they will ban single use tiny water bottles first. What do you think they should ban first?

And this is exactly why I am developing the carbon co-pay document. (Still a spreadsheet – of course). Because we can’t keep saying Just This Once OR Everyone Else is Doing it. Or but they are still selling them.

Basically if I do something I know directly harms my environment I have to PAY. And I go to the spreadsheet.

I apply a lot of it in my day to day living. For example: If I fly: I plant trees, If I buy a plastic wrapped sandwich as I travel, I don’t blow dry my hair the next morning. If I must have a coffee using one of those pod things (because I am at my sons house in California) (and I must) I turn my sons air conditioning up a degree.

(I know I am preaching to the choir but bear with me a moment. Without the pleasure of your company yesterday I did a lot of thinking as I traveled).

Yesterday I worked on a list of what I can do without. PLUS. How will I adapt to not having those things.

For example: Could I survive not being able to travel as freely as I do now? How can I do that differently?

If our scientists are to be believed (and I do believe them) we are running into a spike in our climate crisis shortly. The chances are rising due to emissions from human activities (that is me on my plane) and a likely El Niño weather pattern later this year and for the next four years, that there will be more heat for some and maybe more wet for others – or both at the same time, sometime in the next few years. Not very specific but it is the climate we are talking about. A perfect storm of sorts is coming”.

This will be our first test. We either moan our arses off or we plan ahead.

So even though the scientists are stressing that this will be temporary – (and using words like ‘chances’ and ‘possible’ we are going to be given a dress rehearsal.

What can you do without?

moon reflecting the rising sun across an airport tarmac

The air in Bloomington, Illinois was hazy when I took off yesterday. And the moon was going down as the sun was coming up but nobody was watching but Mrs Moon. They were all staring at their screens – probably looking at photos on the insta feed of pictures of the orange moon. We all just trudge through our days as the world burns down.

I remember a Vietnam war photographer tell me that if he viewed the carnage of war through the lens of his camera, then it did not affect him. It got to the point when he could not just look with the naked eye. His camera became his shield. If something really awful happened close to him he brought his camera up in front of is face, saying to himself I need to get this on film, when really he knew he was using the lens to distance himself from what was happening around him. He never forgave himself for not throwing the camera and film back in his pack and helping the medics.

I wonder if we do this with our phones and camera. Seeing everything as an image to be captured for publication. We have become documenters of our lives. Distanced. Will I just keep showing you temperatures as a graphic in this blog so we can look back and compare this day to a day ten years ago and nod sagely and say oh look – there you go – temps are so much higher now. When the spike of climate change meets El Nino and they collide up there in our atmosphere it is projected that we will be in for some challenging weather. Maybe not this summer but it is coming

Have you got a plan in place for your place? When things hot up like that our food chain goes into free fall. You might need to all move out to the Farmy!

For example – the weather has been so cold this spring in Visalia that the cherries are THREE weeks behind SO FAR. Pickers move from farm to farm and region to region and are contracted, which gives the pickers year round work. So the California cherry pickers are waiting here to start work now. But soon they will have to move up to Washington state for their harvest essentially leaving the orchards here unpicked. When the weather becomes unreliable the jobs of ordinary working people become directly impacted.

hazy light across a rural flat rural landscape taken from a plane

Our most fragile network is food. And electricity. I think. Do you think?

So, whats the contingency plan? I am working as hard and as fast as I can to teach people how to live with the elements, within their means, how to safely adapt, reduce consumption and conserve resources. How to develop robust resilient lifestyles.

Begin the plan to grown food around your home or on your porch. Know your farmer. Don’t buy a house on a flood plain (like my brother). Think about water security.


This weekend here is California, we are going out to orchards to pick (PYO) blueberries and maybe apricots and cherries. And tomorrow to the Farmers Market to buy veg. Today I bake bread and brownies!


PSS Substack

This afternoon I will be reading some old posts as podcasts over at SubStack. I think we are already into September 2011 because I am only reading my favourites. Feel free to join me. Here is where you can sign up for this. It is reader supported and ALL of May is FREE. (The California suburbs will be interesting to record from but my son does have a really large quiet wardrobe! ).


42 Comments on “My yearly pilgrimage around the world

  1. I agree that those plastic bottles have to go next. Here in Vermont, we banned single-use plastic bags several years ago. There was, predictably, tons of screaming from retailers and grocery establishments on what a horrible impact it would have. That was several years ago, and the world didn’t stop revolving. People remember to bring their reusable bags or buy paper ones.
    The plastic bottles have such a huge impact, and they grew that way in just a couple of decades.

  2. I just saw that by 2027 we will go beyond any chance to reverse any climate damage- 4 years. I am so tired of hearing the words temporary, or if we don’t change whatever, or maybe we can correct this. So many give no thought to what this all means and now the world my granddaughters will grow up in is the fault of so many before me, my own early lackluster efforts and no more time. I wonder if I will still be here when the conversation finally changes to admitting all the harm humans have done and it’s either own up or find a new place to destroy.

    I struggle as you do C, with the flying dilemma as there are now two daughters living a 2 hour plane ride away from me, also my grands. Driving there is certainly no better and so I do as you do, and up my game where I can to give back, knowing I barely scratch the surface.

  3. I think there is a lot to be said for self sufficiency.
    I am very keen on the idea of walking from the north to the south of Spain – it was the only affordable means of travel there, up until half way through the 20th Century.

    • Yes! Exactly. That would be an amazing walk. Would they have been ancient Roman roads? I don’t know a lot about Spain.
      Is it like walking the old coach-tracks/ pub to pub – like in GB? But hotter with less rain?

    • That sounds amazing! Perhaps you could pioneer a route 🙂 My partner and I recently spent 10 days walking from the south to the north of Corfu, following the Corfu Trail which was put together by a resident in 2001. So good to be completely unplugged from technology and to see everything at a much slower pace.

      • I’ve driven North to South in Corfu, but never walked it. I did however visit Old Perithia in the 1980s, when it was totally abandoned, aside from a small taverna.
        I’d like to walk the El GR-7 from Andorra to Tarifa in Spain – it’s about 2,600Km.

        • We stayed in Old Perithia on day 9 of the trail. A beautiful, peaceful place and a really lovely example of bringing an old, abandoned village back to life with businesses run by local people.

          The El GR-7 sounds amazing! I speak Spanish and would love to have the opportunity to talk in the local language while walking. That was my only frustration about hiking in Greece — beyond a few basic phrases, I couldn’t communicate in Greek.

          • Old Perithia was quite amazing back then. I was told it was once on the main road and then they built a new road around the hill and it lost it’s importance as a town.
            I had a flat tyre in Corfu and had to ask a farmer for help – like you I didn’t speak a word. I also picked up a local hichhiking. There were lots of hand signals!

            I too speak Spanish and one of my favourite past times is listening to conversations after lunch… It’s amazing what you can learn.

            • Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know the story behind its abandonment. I assumed that due to its remote position, people left to move closer to larger villages and towns.

              Now it has five tavernas and one B&B (and a honey shop selling flower honey from a local beekeeper), but it still feels very remote — especially as we approached it on foot, having climbed Corfu’s highest mountain (Pantokrator) in the rain and mist! Corfu has experienced a very rainy start to its summer this year.

              That must have been quite a challenge communicating with hand signals to work out directions. Easier in the days of paper maps, I guess.

              • It was quite amazing – we went up there to look at the castle and ended up spending time walking round the village too. All the houses were empty with doors open and most looked fairly inhabitable back then.

                We had coffee in the taverna – I regret not eating there now, but the track to the village, from the north, was extremely rough, on the edge of a quarry and I didn’t wan’t to go down in the dark.

  4. You have used your travel thinking and writing time well. I love to read and think about stuff like this. We’re always trying to carve back our consumables consumption but there’s always a copay offset needed even if it isn’t as structured as yours. Currently when we need supermarket stuff rather than driving a 60 or 180 km roundtrip just for that, we get the groceries delivered… the truck does the same distance but multiple drops and provides jobs for the pickers & drivers. There is even an electric truck sometimes. The groceries come in paper bags which we compost and reusable plastic bags which we reuse… the win is I hate going into the supermarket and only order what I need online and I save up the trips to town to do multiple errands and don’t finish my day with buying and unpacking groceries. What bothers me is packaging… the 2 closest bulk stores are each a 180 km roundtrip in different locations. I buy in bulk when I can but less plastic packaged stuff is a work-in-progress. And I’m ambivalent about paper-cardboard unless it’s at least recycled… we live in a forestry area and they are still cutting down old native forest for paper products.

    • I love the delivery option. Mainly because if I never saw the inside of a supermarket ever again it would suit me just fine! Maybe after the single use water bottles we should outlaw the hard plastic packaging that you need a chainsaw to open!
      I hate that they are cutting down old native trees for plastic. I guess all packaging is either paper or plastic.

  5. You were very thought provoking today. Not many easy answers to your questions. I feel you are on the right course. Consume less, grow more, be efficient.

    • Hi Jim. I agree. There are no easy answers I think there are only hard answers. But it is Saturday here so farmers market which is always fun! A nicer thought.

      • Those bright shiny things in our phones will distract us from doing something about solutions. Reality is harder when seen with naked eyes. … Happy marketing.🤠

  6. I am a minimalist by nature and live alone, with no need to shop in bulk. My challenge is always to make better use of what I have and to minimize waste.
    Also, I don’t believe it is possible to plan for the worldly future. The climate is always changing everywhere, as you know. Whether it’s humanity’s “fault” is a matter of opinion.
    I do believe the profusion of industrialized waste in the environment represents institutionalized disrespect for our shared, interdependent ecosystem. We human beings can’t avoid being a part of that, so we benefit from appreciating what we have when we have it.

    • Yes – I do agree . I like to apply the old fashioned word pollution. It is such a no nonsense word and we know what to do! Thank you Katherine.

      • “Nature wastes nothing” according to one of my sources, but from a human perspective, I think that nature takes too long to put pollution to use.

  7. I believe the only way that people will give up air travel is if the price of a ticket is increased to such a degree that people are forced to consider if the journey is truly necessary. But that will also result in airlines going broke, mass lay-offs, airports closing, logistical chaos … and this (IMO) won’t be allowed by governments. To be honest, I don’t see a way out of this mess at all. I reckon we’ll all have to adapt, because we can’t fix what’s coming. ps: (1) ban rubber bands/elastic bands, (2) ban the transport of our rubbish to other countries, (3) ban “buy 2 get 1 free” food offers because it encourages food waste…

  8. What a world we are leaving for my grandchildren to cope with is something I think about often. Plastic bags are a big concern for me. We have no single use plastic bags any more except for things like bread, packaged rolls and biscuits. We can take the soft plastic to some supermarkets to be recycled but I wonder how many people do. Farmers markets don’t work for me as I always buy far too much and then have to find somebody to share my shopping with. And if I can’t find somebody then that’s a waste of not only the food but the energy used to grow it and to take it to the market. I have recently planted some vegetables in planter boxes around my small house and I’m looking to picking my own vegetables. I do use my car each day as walking is not as easy as it used to be. The public transport here in Wellington is really very good compared to other parts of the country. I really believe if we each do every small thing we can, it will make a difference to our planet. Great thoughtful post thank you Ceci.

  9. I haven’t flown long distance (more than 2 hours) since 2016, but not out principle; my spinal fusion won’t let me sit any longer than that. You adapt. You learn to deal with not being able to touch the people you love, and to make do with FaceTime and its equivalents. I do fly; we’re going to Melbourne next month, but it’s in short stages so I can cope. And yes, I feel guilt, and we are going to plant three productive fruit trees. I don’t ever buy bottled water; we have steel insulated bottles and filter our own, and that works well. The government started a refund scheme for drink bottles and cans, and the result is incredible in terms of not seeing them thrown out or in the waterways; people actually go and scavenge for them for the cash.

  10. Lots to think about in this post.

    It’s a small thing but I really want to start a habit of baking my own bread and breakfast items (bagels, rolls etc) instead of buying mass-produced stuff. I’ll have to search your blog for recipes to try 🙂

    And cleaning products – I want to start buying refills instead of just purchasing another plastic bottle.

    • Grace – cleaning products have some much better options these days! I have gotten rid of all the plastic in my cleaning and laundry process with glass only and/or even metal packaging on refills. Good luck finding what works for you!

    • Yes – refills in cardboard. I make my own laundry liquid. I will be baking some bread today and will share that recipe tomorrow. ( if all goes well).

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