I do a lot of traveling, more than ever before, and I’m increasingly conscious of the impact of our excessive mobility is. I’m not sure just what to do about it, but there are certainly a few days we can do immediately.

First, we should wake up to the impact of trips by car and especially aeroplane, and we should not make them carelessly, or just because it’s what everyone else does (fly to Florida in March). How many times have you heard people say, “I needed a vacation from my vacation”? I was impressed recently to hear someone say that his family takes their August holiday at home, because they finally realized that they live in a beautiful place that other people come to visit. (My husband and I are in the same situation, living in what is a popular holiday destination, and the trouble for us is that it is hard to stop working when we’re at home.)

Right now I’m in rural Iowa, visiting my son at the college he’s just transferred to. We flew two hours to Chicago and drove another five hours. This is not negligible, environmentally, and it’s astonishing that colleges in the US now expect parents to visit often, and for kids to go home for a week in the middle of the semester, as well as for Thanksgiving. Tom is planning to get permission to stay during break week and wanted to know what to say if there was a problem about it. I suggested he tell the truth, that his parents can’t afford to fly him home every six weeks. But there’s another truth that ought to have some effect on colleges, which always claim to be concerned about the environment. It’s just not sustainable to have people flying to and fro across the country like this, without any real necessity. Doing community service in the surrounding region would be a lot better for the environment, and for the future these students are going to live and, we hope, raise families in.

karen christensen's corona typewriter on t s eliot's desk

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