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for people who care about the West

A double-edged sword


I always appreciate Jonathan Thompson’s excellent journalism, but I didn’t quite get the point of his recent essay on air travel (“Jet Lag,” HCN, 5/14/18). I just returned from a multi-week cross-country trip myself, which is why I only now got around to reading it. Certainly air travel is uncomfortable and at times dehumanizing, but far from placeless or homogenous. The view of the Cascades is far different from the quiltwork of the farm belt. Instead of isolating us, air travel offers an opportunity for humanization and connection. On this trip I met people from Haiti, Gambia and Kansas City, to name but a few. I would think it to be a journalist’s jackpot for stories.

The dark side of air travel isn’t the discomfort or the anonymity, but the waste. Not just the massive amounts of fossil fuel used for both the planes and the trip to get to the airport (passengers and employees). It is also the waste of human consumption: I saw bins full of packaging and uneaten food, half-finished drinks, plastic cups used for minutes and then thrown away.

Air travel is indeed one of the double-edged swords of our modern world. It expands our opportunities and our horizons (literally and figuratively), but few opportunities come without cost.

Chris Wayne
Chiloquin, Oregon