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Emissions-free travel way of life for globe-trotting B.C. couple

Michelle McQuigge, Vancouver Sun
Long before global warming and carbon footprints became staples of government announcements, a Canadian couple began blazing a green living trail that will soon lead them on an emissions-free tour of their ancestral homes.

Colin Angus and Julie Wafaei frequently indulged their love of outdoor activities, including camping trips and wilderness expeditions, before they met at a Vancouver bus stop in 2003.

After their engagement the next year, the couple was inspired to tackle more ambitious projects.

Angus and Wafaei, who completed the first known human-powered circumnavigation of the globe in 2006 by rowing, skiing, cycling and walking around the world, are in the midst of planning their next emissions-free expedition.

Nine months from now, the couple will attempt a human-powered 6,500-kilometre trek from Angus’ ancestral homeland of Scotland to Syria where Wafaei’s family has roots.

The trip is meant not only to celebrate their upcoming marriage but to raise awareness of environmentally friendly travel alternatives.
(20 May 2007)

Paradise lost

Leo Hickman, Guardian
The travel industry tells us that tourism makes poor countries richer and the whole world happier and more peaceful. Even the most beautiful places can retain their charm. But the truth is very different, says Leo Hickman, in the first of two extracts from his new book [The Final Call, to be published June 4] —-
To tell which way the wind is blowing, all you need to do in my home is lie still in bed and listen. The first clue comes at about 4.30am when a low, distant drone slowly becomes audible – but only when there’s a westerly wind. It’s the first plane of the day – typically a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 – passing at around 4,000ft over my home in south London on its approach to Heathrow airport. It still has eight minutes and 20 miles to fly before it touches down, but by the time it passes overhead the whine of its jet engines is responsible for the 48 decibels of aircraft-related sleep disturbance that the law allows. Just a few minutes or so later, another aircraft will follow in its wake. And another, and another.

In total, Heathrow airport – the world’s busiest – manages a daily average of nearly 1,300 aircraft movements. Like all airports, it uses the direction of the wind to determine which way aircraft will approach its runways, as it is safer for a plane to descend into a head wind. Sometimes, as I lie awake at night counting planes instead of sheep, I wonder where each passenger passing over me has just come from. Are they returning from a holiday? Is this their first time visiting Britain? Are they, like me when I go somewhere for the first time, both apprehensive and excited about arriving in a new country and new city?

And then I move on to the consequences of all these journeys. How much fuel is needed to fly 60 tonnes of aircraft through the air for many hundreds, if not thousands, of miles? Is flying hundreds of millions of people around the world each year for their holidays really sustainable? And what of the destinations and the people who live there? What impact are all these arrivals having?

Fifteen per cent of the UK population now go on three or more flights abroad each year. In 2005, Britons made 66.4 million visits abroad – an all-time record and three times the amount in 1984 – with 81% of those journeys made by air, according to the Office of National Statistics. Two-thirds of all those journeys were made by people going on holiday. And the figures just get bigger as you gaze into the future.
(21 May 2007)

Freight train usage keeps rolling higher

Nate Pardue, Fosters Online US
In what was the 10th straight record-setting year of freight transported by train, some changes to part of the rail system in Maine and New Hampshire have been made to accommodate higher traffic volumes.

The number of railcars transporting freight nationwide grew to 17,380,102 in 2006, up 1.2 percent over 2005, according to Tom White, a spokesman for the Association of American Railroads.

Growth in international trade and fuel price increases are two of the reasons for the higher volumes, White said. Economic growth and a continued shortage of truck drivers also has added to the increased freight load.

Freight shipments by train are about three times as effective as by truck, White said. A freight train can move one ton of goods 423 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel. ..
(20 May 2007)

Bicycles beat subway as fastest mode of travel in New York City

Associated Press
NEW YORK: Two wheels, four wheels or dozens – which offer the fastest mode of travel in the largest – and most congested – U.S. metropolis?

The winner of the New York City contest: The bicycle, followed by a train and a car.

No great surprise there, especially since Friday’s annual race was the idea of Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit group that advocates biking and walking.

The starting line – at a Brooklyn cafe – had the cyclist off and pedaling the moment the race began. The subway rider, though, had to use his two feet first to get to the station and then transfer to a bus; the car contestant wasted precious minutes waiting for a cab.

While not scientific, all three participants initially swore by their choices, which took them to the finish on East 26th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan.
(18 May 2007)
Related from WSJ Energy Roundup: Happy Bike to Work Day (and Week and Month)!.