Field of Science

Flying is Unsustainable

Today I am crossing Australia, the Pacific, and then the West Coast by airplane and I feel guilty. You see everything that I do in my daily life to be environmentally friendly is nullified by my airplane travel. Even if I was completely carbon neutral in my daily life the excessive amount of airplane travel that I partake in each year would place me me in the same ranks as the worst polluters in America. According to a green manifesto (also see this description of 'low-energy astrophysics') by astrophysicist P.J. Marshall and others the average energy consumption per day of a person in the U.S. is 250 kWh/day/person. An astrophysicist uses an extra 133kWh/day/astronomer, yet the vast majority of that additional energy usage, 113 kWh/day/astronomer, is contributed by flying. The key message of the manifesto is that while astronomers are not actually a significant energy consumer in the U.S. (they use 0.001% of the national total energy production) we are high profile scientists who must set an example. Astronomers believe global warming is real, and thus must act.


  1. Apparently, according to my daughter (14 going on 30), I owe you an apology for the following:

    Misleading you into believing in drop bears.
    Pretending to be a nice guy.
    "The whole astrologer / astronomer thing"
    Trolling the comment section of your blog.
    Being "shifty" (whatever that means.)


    suck it up cupcake 'cos it ain't happening.

    Have a good flight mate. Catchya next time.

  2. With the advent of the internet and technologies like Skype, a large percentage of business meetings and many conferences of all kinds could be conducted via the web.

    We have developed a bad habit of excessive air travel, and other forms of travel, because we have gone through a period of plentiful energy and environmental neglect.

    Time to exchange those bad habits for more sustainable ones.

    A good place to start would be with more sensible reproductive choices. If the human species cannot control its alarming population growth, then not much else matters.



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