Our Year of No Flying has come to an end. Our container ship brought us from Europe back to the East Coast of the United States, where we traveled by bus and train to see family and friends in central Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, and Chicago, before crossing the continent on Amtrak's amazing California Zephyr train line. We had a front row seat to some of the most stunning landscapes in the United States, passing through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. We were surprised when our train arrived early. Charlie met at the train station and drove us home to Berkeley. And then back to reality, learning to live again without a backpack on one's back, a money belt in one's pants, and our perpetual questions: "how are we getting there? who can we talk to? who's writing the blog post?"
As soon as we got home, we started volunteering on the No on Prop 23 campaign, hoping to defeat an oil industry-funded effort to shut down California's landmark 2006 climate change legislation. (Anirvan even popped up in an anti-Prop 23 ad.) The good guys won, and California, the world's 8th largest economy and 12th largest emitter, is now on track to roll out carbon caps in 2012.
We knew our year of no flying had really ended when we subsequently got back on a plane and flew to India for Barnali's brother's wedding. For all the talk about the climate impacts of aviation, here we were spewing the climate equivalent of driving a car for two years. Love miles had gotten the best of us again.
We felt a twinge of discomfort at the airport as we removed our belts, shoes, jackets, phones, laptops, and liquids; it's as if Big Aviation had been conspiring to make us feel as unwelcome as possible, and indeed, the introduction of the new backscatter X-ray full-body scanners and associated security groping techniques had led to a full-fledged libertarian-tinged American anti-aviation movement, calling for boycotts of flying, airport shutdowns, and even years of no flying. Activists against the aviation security complex fought back, networking online, organizing a national day of action, taking off their clothes. The general media message? Pesky protesters fail to slow down the aviation machine; all's well with the world, and the issue's no longer worth covering (despite significant public unease and significant questions about radiation health impacts).
Thankfully, we were neither groped nor had naked photos of us taken as we took our flight to India; on a plane full of folks heading to India and the Middle East, for once, the color of our skin wasn't enough to place us in the likely-terrorist camp. Our Emirates flight flew over Iran, which we may never have the chance to visit; our inflight displays showed historic Tehran below us as a tiny blip, as we passed overhead without getting the chance to explore what was below. The wedding was wonderful, and we loved the week-long family celebration of the happy occasion. We'd vowed to ourselves to cut short-haul air travel, so we were delighted that our family chose to use trains instead of planes to get from one end of the country to the other.
We've spent the past year thinking about climate and aviation, travel and tourism, justice and pleasure. It's been a minor revelation to us that this doesn't have to end when we come home, that it's something we can incorporate into our everyday lives even after our once-in-a-lifetime year-long project ends. We're going to keep interviewing people who inspire us and sharing stories we encounter in the weeks and months ahead, focusing on our own wonderful crazy nation for a change. Thanks for following us!