As the 2008 Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, Sian Berry had to get her head around the problem of transportation in the British capital. Good for us, because her 50 Ways to Greener Travel became one of our bibles while we were compiling the Transport issue. Reading it was so useful that we decided to ask her a few more questions by email. Here are her answers.
Just to warm up, tell us at least one scary statistic that explains how inconsiderate is the way we travel around the world.
Flying is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and many other developed countries. If we want to have a chance of meeting climate targets, we have to stop the number of flights growing to dangerous levels. One study showed that if we don't do this, and allow the increase in flights to continue, all our greenhouse gas allowances will be used by flying by 2050, leaving no fuel for anything else!
Do you think that in 50 years time we will be travelling as much and as far as we are doing today? If not, what will we be doing instead?
In 50 years from now, we will have to have come up with lots of different ways to travel smarter, making the most of what's left without causing runaway climate change in the process. Doing this in a way that is fair to everyone will be the biggest challenge. It would be terrible if the benefits of seeing other parts of the world were restricted only to the very richest people, and even worse if those people continued to take lots of casual long-haul holidays while the rest of us couldn't travel at all. The best value travel - both environmentally in the number of great memories and experiences you can gather per mile - is to go over land and sea, using slower methods such as trains and ships rather than airplanes, and taking fewer but longer trips. We should do more to develop better routes and connections so that booking public transport across country boundaries gets easier and more affordable for everyone.
Tell me 5 solutions to the problem of long-distance travelling in the post-petroleum era?
To help make the way we use fuel fairer, one of the best ideas I've seen is for everyone to have their own set of 'carbon credits' to use how they want, with an overall limit on the worldwide total. A person using up less than their share can then sell their credits to people who want more, so this system could help increase equality, as well as making sure that we don't use more fossil fuels than the planet can stand.
Practical ways of using less fuel include making more use of the internet to have meetings without travelling. We're already starting to do this with services like Skype and, in future, the quality of technologies like this will get better and make it even less necessary for people to gather in one place to talk business.
For personal and business travel, better long-distance rail and coach services will help too. And, of course, we can do a lot more to reduce the amount of traveling done by the products we buy. At the moment, factories tend to be far away from the places where raw materials are produced, and from their final customers. It makes sense to do more food production and manufacturing locally, and to produce and package things in one place, so that we can transport the finished products just once rather than at every stage in the process.
Finally, new technologies have huge potential to make travel more sustainable. Right now we're a very long way from solar powered planes, and there aren't many long-distance cars, buses and trains that are fuelled with renewable energy, but who knows what advances we'll see in these areas in the future!
How do you plan your travels? Are your habits personally influenced by the goal of saving petroleum?
I do take the fuel and carbon footprint of my travel seriously. I do a lot of video conferencing for work and, when I'm choosing holidays, I look out for interesting places that I can reach by train or bus. It helps that my favourite ways to relax are walking up hills and mountains and visiting ancient monuments, because we have a lot of those right here in Britain. If I decide to go further afield one day, I'll be seeking out boats and trains to get me there and making my holiday a longer trip to allow for a slower, greener pace of travel.