Kyle Hayden, Columnist
Learning to die in place is hard. To get some perspective, I floated up above the clouds and smoke stacks at 540 MPH. I was in what we call a jetliner, cruising.
I always choose the window seat if I can because if we go down I’d like to at least get an interesting view while everyone else sits screaming for themselves. Help yourself before assisting others.
This is flight: an underpaid alcoholic in the cockpit hardly watching us plow into the sky, playing with lives. They think they’re in control.
Bored, helping us destroy geography, the pilot is speeding to see his girlfriends in Atlanta while his family jaunts around clueless in some asphalted Houston suburb (it could be Shenandoah, could be The Woodlands — they are all indistinguishable).
We’re up there, grunting at 30,000 feet, the steel bird squeaking and flexing in the unknown turbulence. The violence of an indifferent earth waits in ripples of uneven air to break us into bits. Passengers watch TV shows, headphones planted in their skulls, doing damage they won’t know until age 60.
The folks in the cabin are too unaware of the uniqueness of this era to even be bothered to look out the window. They are unaware of the thinness of the aluminum above their heads and the frailty of the atmosphere even further up.
In this pile of low contracting bids, I’m gaping through my personal Plexiglas porthole. No longer able to see the ground and those dead-end wormy roads we laid everywhere; the Interstates all draped like shiny scars on the landscape, I’m looking at the clouds.
It is beautiful save the vulgarity of this bloated advertisement in the sky. The frozen clouds I can almost hear hissing against the metal. We’re laying a ribbon of thick fumes, depositing them in the most effective place for maximum greenhouse effect on our way through. This is our way of saying thanks.
This view makes me feel arrogant. The planet is small, despite their claims of bigness. Which is it? Is the world “getting smaller” because of your phones and computers? Or is it “too big” for your inventions to have an effect?
It makes no sense to say that considering “giving up” flying would a privilege because I’ve never been able to afford it, and the tickets have always been gifts, for which I have been grateful. Some people will never “get” to fly, and they are probably better for it.
I suppose it matters not if I never fly again. Doubtless I will be replaced by swarms of fellas in suits. Businessmen everywhere are detectably identical and shuffling them around like fleshy pieces on a full-scale board game is all for naught.
Looking out at the tiny earth (our only home), I realize those sharing the cabin with me are completely unaware of this threat to their lives or the drudgery hidden beyond the screens and the immense privilege derived from a culture based on ripping stuff out of the earth.
But hey, at least y’all have a massive GDP.
A dim distant star of awareness hangs over me here in this well-lit tube of speed. One day it will go out. I can see Jupiter through the sunset as the sky darkens. Although it can’t be seen from here, unending storms churn its surface.
Someone’s great grandchildren will either revere us or
But it is for us to decide which story we teach them about our behavior.
We could teach them the selfish version, about how we didn’t stop the corporations and cultures from killing the planet and that it was “so great back in the good ole days.”
Or we could teach them the honest story about how the unintended consequences of our hubris were always far beyond our control and that we did everything we could to keep the planet relatively alive.
Because they aren’t going to care if we had a good time, they are going to care if they can live.
Guy McPherson said: “If you think the needs of the economy are more important than the needs of the environment, try holding your breath while you count your money.”
I’m afraid for you all: dear
readers, fellow flyers and lovers of travel. This privilege will go away, too. I am afraid of your reaction.