One hundred and fifty years ago, in the late 1870’s there were no cars, few trains and definitely no airplanes. People travelled locally by coach and horse, or on horseback, or by that much forgotten method: walking. Can you imagine a world that essentially lived within its village, town or city limits, only venturing forth for an annual holiday by the sea or in the mountains, if it all.
Trains were powered by coal, which was dirty but plentiful across most of the world, as were the great ocean liners, so we can’t say that travel was really sustainable by today’s standards but if you divided the number of journeys against the total population the figures would have been very low with the majority of the population doing most of their travelling on foot, perhaps on a bicycle, or indeed on horseback!
This brings up two important questions in modern day Indonesia: (1) Do we really need to travel as much as we do? and (2) can we really not walk 300m to the closest Alfamart?
The first one is tricky, especially for those of us in the tourism industry. we want people to travel! We want them to get in their cars in Jakarta and go to Puncak, Bogor, Bandung, Jogja, Solo, Pelabuhan Ratu, Anyer, etc. and enjoy a new atmosphere, different food, new landscapes and well, just relax somewhere else! But is that really necessary since we re directly contributing major amounts of carbon by that family weekend trip?
The answer has to lie in the hands of three parties: the government, the hotels receiving their guests and the families on a responsibility for their own carbon footprint!
Now here are some interesting questions on how control climate change, and who is responsiblel.
Is the Indonesian government responsible for the emissions of its people when the calculations are done for the COP 26 / Paris Agreement recordings? If they are then they need to do much more to move people on to public transport and make that transport more sustainable.
Second, are the hotels responsible for their guest’s carbon footprint in their journeys to and from the property? Then every hotel will need to increase its carbon compensation contribution and probably, thereby increase their prices.
Thirdly, if a family has to take personal responsibility for their emissions then perhaps that weekend trip to Bandung might only be every 3 months, not every month.
But we do not take responsibility, and so we get on planes and into cars and motorbikes without a single thought of our personal responsibility, blaming only coal-fired power stations, massive industry, deforestation and everybody else.
But if we really think about it: 270 million people going to work everyday and holiday every month adds more carbon to the atmosphere than most small countries. And we do nothing to pay for that or to compensate… and maybe we should.
So, since the days of horse and coal-fired trams are over, let us at least do the right thing and walk to the warung or the Indomaret and back. Let us review our need to jump on a plane to Labuan Bajo or Manado, or in the car to Sentul even, or if we do, perhaps we should calculate our carbon footprint and do something to compensate. Then you can really relax knowing your trip hasn’t added a nail in the Earth’s coffin.