I have avoided making this post for quite sometime now, because I don't want to face the basic questions that I need to ask myself.
Jet engines run on kerosene, which is basically the stuff that powers your old Coleman camping lantern. It provides a high energy output for a relatively small mass, and there are currently no approved substitutes for jet fuel.
Airlines in the US burned 19.6 Billion (with a B) gallons of the stuff in 2006. A good estimate for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is 19.6 lbs of CO2 for every gallon of gas burned.
In our little baby jet, we average a burn of around 160 gallons per hour, so we add around 3,100 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere for each and every hour we have the engines turning.
Our exhaust is generally exhausted at high altitudes, so it goes into the upper atmosphere a lot more easily than auto emissions. Each hour I fly, my jet basically injects CO2 directly into the neck of mother nature.
How can I justify the ecological toll that my job is taking? It's not so bad for me, but when Lisa and I have kids, I want to leave them a world that is at least remotely functional, with fresh air and drinkable water, not a volcanic planet with green clouds that rain sulphuric acid upon the few fragments of life that remain.
It scares me, and it's one of the reasons I drive a hybrid car. I know it sounds like ordering a double Big Mac with an extra-large diet Coke, and that's what I'm struggling with.
I love my job, but it directly contributes to the poor health of the planet. When I was flying medevacs I guess it would have been easier for me; we were doing trips to save a life. But I don't do any of those trips and more, I mostly fly people to meetings and to vacation spots. How important are those trips?
Factoring into this is that I enjoy a good standard of living right now, and this is the first time I have taken home more than a thousand bucks every two weeks. I am not trained to do anything else, but I am working on that part - my parent company deals with alternative energy sources and I am putting together a plan that will net me a second qualification besides aviation, a plan that will train me for a decent job if my aviation career ever stops. But that's going to be a while. So what about the interim?
How can I justify being part of an industry that adds massive amounts of greenhouse gasses directly to the upper atmosphere and contributes to global warming?
Is my personal comfort and level of economic privilege more important than that of my future-born? How do I do the math on it? Like if I quit my job and go on welfare but avoid putting another million pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere will my kids have a better life? How about someone else's kids in another country?
Will I be able to look my kids in the eye and honestly say that I did everything I could to make their world a better place, one that they will be happy to inherit?
Did I do anything I could? At all?
What makes it so hard is that I love flying. I love love love it, and I intrinsically feel like I was meant to do it. But I wonder if Hannibal Lecter thought the same thing when he first looked at a person as a food source.
What do you think? Am I out to lunch here, along with Hannibal?